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.”

Media

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

Innovation

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.”

Region

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.”

Mayor Don Iveson calls on Edmonton investors to get in the game

In his State of the City address (available here in PDF) yesterday at the Shaw Conference Centre, Mayor Don Iveson said there are four crucial “pipelines” that must be established in order to actively shape Edmonton’s economic future. The “export” pipeline, the “investment” pipeline, the “talent” pipeline, and the “innovation” pipeline are what we need for growth in Edmonton.

2018 State of the City Address

Most of what Mayor Iveson told the packed room was simply a rehash of ideas he and other local leaders have been sharing for years, updated to use the startup language of the day. What was different this time was the very specific audience he was speaking to. It wasn’t a speech for all Edmontonians, or for community leaders, or even for the business community. Yesterday’s speech was targeted squarely at local investors.

“As it stands right now, we don’t have enough local investment committed to our local innovation ecosystem,” Mayor Iveson said. He noted that too much local money is being sent out of the city to be invested elsewhere. “I’d like to change that dynamic.”

We need Edmonton’s investor class to get engaged

Mayor Iveson started by describing Edmonton’s investor class:

“It doesn’t always look like one might expect. It’s not always dressed in bankers’ suits. It’s not always flashy like in other cities. It’s more reserved and quiet. But it’s deeply committed to this community.”

“A lot of you are in the room today,” he said. “You’ve built your companies in dynamic and creative ways, you employ thousands of Edmontonians and you are proud to call this city home.” Mayor Iveson outlined three key reasons why the investor class should invest locally:

  1. “This is very doable,” he told them. “A lot of early-stage companies in Edmonton don’t require cash in the millions.” Instead, typical seed funding requirements are in the tends of thousands.

  2. “More local, private investment will give our innovation ecosystem more rigour.” Compared to institutional investors, private investors put “a premium on commercial viability and outcomes.”

  3. “Investing in the growth of local companies means actively shaping Edmonton’s economic future.” He appealed to their love of Edmonton. “You care about what happens to this community over the long run.”

“There must be a willingness from our community to place some bets on local innovations, on local entrepreneurs, on local talent,” Mayor Iveson said.

There are billions of dollars under management right here in Edmonton, but startup funding remains elusive. As one example, AngelList currently shows 16 investors from Edmonton with only 11 of those having actually made investments. Mayor Iveson mentioned just one seed fund by name, Panache Ventures. The situation is much better than it was back in 2006, but to say there’s room for improvement would be a huge understatement.

“I recognize I’m asking a lot of you, especially in this fragile economic climate,” he said. “But this is Edmonton’s moment, and your city needs your engagement and support more than ever.”

We need a bigger startup funnel

Noting that Startup Edmonton currently assists about 65 companies per year in their startup phase, Mayor Iveson said “we need to drastically increase the number of companies coming into the ecosystem funnel.” By this time next year, the mayor wants “to at least double the number of start-up companies that are assisted on an annual basis.” To do this, he will be asking City Council and both public and private sector parterns “to make sizeable investments” to help expand the size of the startup funnel.

This is a familiar refrain locally, especially in the tech sector. Increasing the number of startups in Edmonton is of course the whole reason for Startup Edmonton, an initiative that Mayor Iveson has long been a supporter of. Many other initiatives in recent years have focused on increasing the number of local entrepreneurs. Even in last year’s State of the City address, Mayor Iveson talked about the need “to focus on how we take local start-ups to the next level — to zero-in on adopting a scale-up mindset and build a scale-up community that helps our small enterprises grow confidently.”

This time, Mayor Iveson reiterated the importance of local investment. Edmonton needs more than just more companies, he said. “It also needs larger amounts of early-stage capital to help our entrepreneurs go from start-up to scale-up and beyond.”

Mayor Don Iveson

We need to hustle

One of the key messages Mayor Iveson focused on was the need to hustle. “Edmonton has experienced incredible external pressures before, and we have always managed to adapt and get by,” but that’s not good enough anymore, he said. Recent trips to San Francisco and Asia showed the mayor just how hard we need to work just to keep up, let alone get ahead. “From the moment you hit the ground in these places, the hustle is on.”

We have heard this before. When Brad Ferguson took over as President & CEO of EEDC in 2012, he was already sounding the alarm about complacency, calling it “our number enemy.”

This time though, the mayor got a bit more specific. “Today, we have one of the best AI research institutions in the world but we risk being outspent and out-hustled by other provinces and other cities,” he said. While there’s a role for government, “there’s also a significant role for local investors and philanthropists.”

We’re a world leader in the science of artificial intelligence, and we need to aggressively build on that.

We need a bigger talent pipeline

More talent is going to be critical for Edmonton’s growth. “We know we have work to do in terms of developing skilled talent — both locally grown, and talent that we attract from elsewhere,” Mayor Iveson said.

Again, this is not new. At the EEDC Impact Luncheon in January 2016, Brad Ferguson told the crowd that “the most important thing we can do is continue to invest in talent.” In September 2014, the Edmonton in a New Light event touched on the same ideas – be less humble, go tell the world, attract people and investment – but used different language. “The opportunity before us is to let the rest of the world in on the secret of why we’re all here,” Mayor Iveson said at the time.

The mayor did announce yesterday a new partnership with EEDC and LinkedIn “to do a deep dive on Edmonton’s talent landscape” to better understand “the kinds of skills we’re missing to grow our innovation ecosystem.” Based on that, the City will craft “an Edmonton story that is compelling, honest and attractive” and that highlights “the incredible quality of life we have here.” Plenty has been written about our city’s branding efforts and missteps, so while I applaud a more data-driven approach, I find it hard to believe this time will be different.

2018 State of the City Address

We need to sell to the world

Mayor Iveson said that for sustained growth in Edmonton, we need more businesses with a focus on exports. “Companies that aren’t satisfied to stay local, but want to scale up and take their product or service to customers around the world,” he said, and cited Stantec, PCL, Yardstick, Showbie, and BioWare as examples of local companies that “opened global markets through relentless quality and ambition.”

This focus on global should be very familiar by now. Shortly after he won the 2013 election Mayor Iveson started using some new language, “innovative” and “globally competitive” in particular. And even then Mayor Iveson was talking about solving local problems and exporting the solutions to the world:

“As problem solvers, we can do our business cleaner, greener, cheaper, faster and safer – and sell those solutions to the world. This is how we will ensure that Edmonton will compete globally, and endure long into the future, no matter the price of oil.”

He mentioned the new direct flight to San Francisco as one of the ways to enable more exports. “Although we’re in a digital world, the face-to-face meeting is still a vital commodity when it comes to engaging advisors, connecting with partners and making deals,” he said. The flight will be “a tremendous enabler for more Edmonton-made businesses, with global ambitions, to reach beyond Canada.”

We need to use the City as a lab

After talking about the challenges the City faces, Mayor Iveson said “I want to take the burgeoning community of technology minds in our backyard and unleash them on those City problems.” Earlier this month he introduced a motion to have City Administration outline a draft policy or program to make this a reality. And he said he would pursue a “Startup in Residence” program to connect startups with local government.

As early as 2009 the City was trying and failing to accomplish this goal, first with the Leveraging Technical Expertise Locally program. In his 2015 State of the City address, Mayor Iveson talked about Open Lab, “a new partnership with Startup Edmonton that aims to solve municipal challenges in a more entrepreneurial way.” It sounded promising, but it has gone nowhere, and the City even took down its web page about the program.

“Let’s actively shape Edmonton’s economic future by leveraging our local tech talent to help make our established companies become as competitive and innovative as they can be,” the mayor said. He talked about his idea for an “Innovation Hub” downtown, a place to bring together “entrepreneurs, service providers, mentors, investors, talent and business experts in an environment specifically designed to encourage the creation and growth of companies.” In contrast to the manufactured office parks seen elsewhere, the mayor promised it would reflect “Edmonton’s lifestyle where innovation, entrepreneurship, the arts, creativity and vibrant urban life intersect.”

Mayor Don Iveson

Growing Edmonton’s economy is the focus

Mayor Iveson made growing the economy a key election promise last year, so it makes sense that economic development was his focus for this year’s State of the City. Earlier this month he released a report on the Mayor’s Economic Development Summit, and his remarks yesterday built on that. Again, none of the ideas are particularly new, but perhaps by better involving local investors they’ll have a much greater chance of success.

“Edmonton is ready for this,” the mayor said. “Ready to get off the bench and play at a global level.”

Federal Budget 2016, Sprawling Edmonton, Riverview Name Debate

Here’s the latest entry in my Edmonton Etcetera series, in which I share some thoughts on a few topical items in one post. Less than I’d write in a full post on each, but more than I’d include in Edmonton Notes. Have feedback? Let me know!

Federal Budget 2016

The Government of Canada introduced Budget 2016 today, saying it is “a plan that takes important steps to revitalize the Canadian economy, and delivers real change for the middle class and those working hard to join it.” The budget projects a $29.4 billion deficit. Here’s a video titled Restoring Hope for the Middle Class that highlights some of the budget commitments:

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) called the budget “a big win for Canadians” and says it will “transform the way we build cities and communities and marks a new era of federal-municipal partnership.” They like the investments the government is making in housing, transit, and green infrastructure, as well as the “new cost-sharing funding model” that will have a shorter-term impact while longer-term funding agreements are worked out.

Mayor Don Iveson is the Chair of FCM’s Big City Mayors’ Caucus. Here’s what he had to say:

“This budget and the new, stronger working relationship between the federal government and municipalities really marks a new way of getting things done for Canadians. This introduces a new era of collaboration which will see us build stronger cities and a stronger Canada.”

The budget outlines a five-year, $11.9 billion infrastructure spending plan. There’s a focus on public transit, with $3.4 billion over three years being invested according to each province’s share of national ridership. For Alberta, with 10.28% of Canada’s public transit ridership, that works out to just over $347 million. There’s also an increase in eligible costs for public transit projects up to 50% which is a big improvement. Another $2.3 billion of the infrastructure plan will go to affordable housing over two years, $739 million of which is for investments in housing for First Nations, Inuit, and Norther Communities. About $112 million of the affordable housing allocation is to help cities tackle homelessness.

Budget 2016 extends EI regular benefits by 5 weeks, but only in three of Alberta’s four EI regions – not in Edmonton. That’s because we did not experience a large enough increase in our unemployment rate between March 2015 and February 2016. Provincially the changes could be worth about $380 million.

Like all cities, Edmonton faces major challenges around the maintenance and replacement of aging infrastructure. Budget 2016 includes funding of $50 million for infrastructure management and measurement, which should help cities collect the data required to inform decision-making. Getting a better handle on the project will be a good thing.

Sprawling Edmonton

As mentioned a couple of days ago, Council is revisiting the discussion about sprawl in our city thanks to a report that projects the City will face a $1.4 billion shortfall after building out the three Urban Growth Areas. On top of this, another $8.3 billion in non-residential assessment growth is needed to maintain the current ratio of residential to non-residential tax assessment. That’s the real reason the City is pursuing annexation, though you won’t find it in the “three reasons for annexation”.

Edmonton from Above
Edmonton from Above, photo by Dave Cournoyer

In an editorial this week, the Journal wrote:

“Now is not the time to add to chills in the development industry, but the status quo is not a good option either.”

We need to stop worrying about the development industry and worry instead about Edmonton. Mayor Iveson put it like this in a recent blog post:

“This is a critical conversation happening in cities all across Canada; I intentionally use the word ‘critical’ because Edmonton is simply not financially sustainable under our current growth model.”

The word “sprawl” is carefully avoided in both the editorial and the mayor’s post. But that’s what it is.

Riverview Name Debate

One of the three Urban Growth Areas is Riverview, where planning for neighbourhoods is well underway. Names were proposed for five neighbourhoods, and both the developers and the Naming Committee agreed on two: Grandisle and White Birch. The other three names proposed were “The Uplands”, “Red Willow”, and “River’s Edge” but the Naming Committee went with “Balsam Woods”, “Golden Willow”, and “River Alder” instead. The developers appealed, which is how the issue came before Council today.

Paula Simons wrote about the issue with her signature brand of wit:

“If the developer’s chosen names are poor, the city’s aren’t much better. Balsam Wood sounds like something you use to build model airplanes. River Alder doesn’t trip off the tongue and west Edmonton already has an Aldergrove. It’s hard to take sides in this fight when both sets of names are so depressingly bland.”

We already have The Uplands of Mactaggart too.

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Today, after an amusing debate, Council approved the developers’ proposed names. In discussing the importance of names, Councillor Loken said:

“If someone doesn’t like the name of a neighbourhood, they’re probably not going to live there…But Red Willow, Golden Willow? I don’t know.”

Maybe that’s how we can solve our sprawl problem!

Mayor Iveson on Budget 2016-2018

As he did last year, Mayor Don Iveson hosted a lunchtime “editorial board” for some local bloggers at City Hall last week. We covered a range of issues during the lunch hour, including his proposal to cut the 1.5% neighbourhood renewal levy, the need for affordable housing, the latest on the City Charter and his alignment with Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, and the ballooning Edmonton Police budget.

Mayor Don Iveson
Mayor Don Iveson discusses the budget with local bloggers

Communicating about the budget

It was suggested that public sentiment is that the City announces a high percentage tax increase and then Council works to bring it down throughout the budget process, looking like heroes in the process. Mayor Iveson rejected this notion. “It’s not a game, it’s us showing all the cards,” he said. The City is “the most transparent order of government” according to Mayor Iveson.

“If decisions were made in private, there’d be no cynicism,” he continued. “But there’s no cure for cynicism like participation!” He called the entire budget process a “good example of local democracy” in action.

Neighbourhood Renewal

The economic situation has changed and property owners’ ability to pay is different, is how Mayor Iveson explained his proposal to suspend the 1.5% neighbourhood renewal for three years. “For a while we were the only order of government raising taxes,” he said. “Now the other two orders of government are raising taxes.”

He wanted to be clear that cutting the levy does not mean slowing down, however. “The discussion is just how to pay for it,” he said. So if we’re cutting the levy, where will the money come from? First, Mayor Iveson suggested that the tough economy means that costs for the work could actually come down. Second, he’s counting on transfers from the Province and the Feds. “I’m quite confident we will get predictable, sustainable transfers from the Feds starting next year, potentially closing in on nine figures in transfers to Edmonton,” he said. On top of that, the mayor said it’s “a reasonable assumption” that there will be a successor to MSI. That program is getting a $20 million bump next year, but its future beyond 2018 is uncertain.

Mayor Iveson indicated the levy could be reviewed annually and brought back if necessary, though some of his Council colleagues have questioned whether it would really be that easy.

Housing

We talked a little about affordable and social housing. “It sounds like there may be funding for affordable housing in the new Federal budget,” Mayor Iveson said. He told us the City is working to influence how that money will flow. “There’s lots of opportunities to redevelop old sites where the land is the most valuable asset,” he said.

Building housing isn’t enough though. Mayor Iveson talked about the need for an ongoing funding source and said that could come from social enterprise. He mentioned the proposed Londonderry project and said that social housing with wraparound services could be very viable. “Cities are the places where creativity can occur,” he said.

Edmonton Police Service

I’ve written in the past that I think the Edmonton Police Service budget has grown too large and needs to be reigned in. It seems that Council finally agrees, as on Friday they agreed to cap budget increases for the police to the rate of inflation plus population growth. Mayor Iveson blogged about his proposal today.

Mayor Iveson didn’t give any indication he would introduce such a motion when we spoke on Wednesday, though he did say “it’s true that EPS has gotten almost everything they’ve asked for in the last eight or nine budgets.” He also suggested that the Edmonton Police Commission needs to play a role in scrutinizing the budget.

Mostly though he defended police spending and suggested the Province needs to do more to help. The mayor said Edmonton’s police budget is perhaps larger than other cities because of demographics, the boom/bust cycle, and the number of prison spaces in the region. As with health care, demand for policing is growing faster than population, said Mayor Iveson.

“The cost drivers are real,” he said, noting the impact of homelessness and poverty. “But we need to fund a response in the meantime.”

City Charter

Mayor Iveson acknowledged that the timeline for the Charter that was agreed with former Premier Jim Prentice will not be met, but said that everyone is still committed to getting it done with this Council term (the next municipal election is October 2017). He noted that kind of timetable also aligns nicely with the proclamation of the new Municipal Government Act.

Mayor Iveson outlined three phases for the City Charter discussions:

  1. Phase 1 has been about legislative changes. The goal is to have fewer restrictions on Edmonton and Calgary, and maybe over time that can trickle down to other municipalities like Red Deer. It’s really about the Province having trust in Edmonton and Caglary.
  2. Phase 2 is “an earnest discussion about roles and responsibilities.” The prime example is policing. Mayor Iveson noted that smaller communities in Alberta have their policing expenses paid for, but the big cities do not. On top of that, Edmonton picks up the tab for the region. He said “there’s a busines case here,” for example by better aligning the justice system and police to “work together more efficiently.”
  3. Phase 3 would be about financial changes. The term used most often is “long-term sustainable funding” for the big cities.

He also told us that both he and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi have aligned around four key priorities:

  1. Policing & Community Safety
  2. Housing
  3. Transit
  4. Poverty

They feel that “implementation is best done municipally” but that there’s a lot of opportunity to work together. Both Edmonton and Calgary have community plans around ending poverty, and they want to see the Province align its efforts with those plans. He noted the Province has not abandoned its Social Policy Framework and that Edmonton’s strategy is consistent with it. When it comes to funding for the plan however, “that remains to be seen.”

Budget deliberations continue

Council will continue discussing the budget right through December 10 if needed. You can dig into the budget here or you can check out the interactive budget simulator.

EndPoverty Edmonton recognizes volunteers and moves closer to finalizing its strategy

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

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

Volunteer Appreciation

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

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

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

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

EndPoverty Edmonton

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

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

Recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Support

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

State of the City Address 2015

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

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

Count yourself in

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

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

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

EndPoverty Edmonton

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

What’s next?

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

endpoverty edmonton

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

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.

Recap: 2015 Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts

The 28th annual Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts took place last night at the Winspear Centre. This was the second event under Mayor Don Iveson and he seemed to be having just as much fun this year as last! He got in on the break-dancing to start the evening and also joined The Wet Secrets on stage to close out the show. This was also a big year for the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton, which produces the show. PACE has both a new visual identity and for the first time, an Executive Director (Sheiny Satanove).

2015 Mayor's Celebration of the Arts
Hey Ladies in front of the Production World screen featuring art by Jason Carter

The evening was hosted by Leona Brausen, Cathleen Rootsaert, and Davina Stewart, the trio behind the comedy show Hey Ladies which “celebrates Edmonton artists, local businesses, and other home-grown phenomenon.” They’ve called the Roxy Theatre on 124 Street home for the past eight years, so it was fitting to have them as emcees given that this year’s event supported Theatre Network. You can find Hey Ladies at the ATB Financial Arts Barns this season. I thought they did a great job as hosts, bringing just the right amount of energy and humor to keep things humming along!

The Awards

The full list of nominees is available at the PACE website. Here are the winners:

Mayor’s Award for Innovative Support by a Business of the Arts
Happy Harbor Comics, nominated by Jeff Martin

Mayor’s Award for Sustained Support of the Arts
Audrey’s Books, nominated by LitFest and the Alberta Book Fair Society

John Poole Award for Promotion of the Arts
Alexis Marie Chute, nominated by Wes Lafortune

ATB Financial Ambassador of the Arts Award
Rapid Fire Theatre, nominated by the Rapid Fire Theatre Board of Directors

ATCO Gas Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement
The Honourable Tommy Banks

CN Award for Youth Artist
Kieran MacDonald, nominated by Victoria School of the Arts

DIALOG Award for Excellence in Artistic Direction
Amy Shostak, nominated by Christopher Samuel

Mile Zero Dance Progressive Artist Award
Paul Freeman, nominated by the Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts

Northlands Award for an Emerging Artist
Ahmed Knowmadic, nominated by Muna Saleh

The 2015 Robert Kroetch City of Edmonton Book Prize
Rudy Wiebe for Come Back published by Penguin Random House Canada

Syncrude Award for Excellence in Arts Management
Karen Brown-Fournell, nominated by Christine DeWitt

TELUS Courage to Innovate Award
Amber Borotsik, nominated by Ben Sures

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

Tommy Banks is of course no stranger to Edmontonians and last night he was recognized for his “outstanding contribution to the arts in Edmonton.” He’s won several awards over his career (including a Juno and a Gemini), is a member of the Edmonton Cultural Hall of Fame, is a recipient of the Alberta Order of Excellence, and is an Officer of the Order of Canada. In addition to a short video about his accomplishments, we were treated to a couple of songs by the man himself.

2015 Mayor's Celebration of the Arts

One of the first things Mayor Iveson said on stage was how honored he was to be in the same building as Tommy Banks. It was fitting then that when Banks took the stage later in the evening to perform, he called out Mayor Iveson as hip and “probably the only mayor in the whole country” who would try to break-dance on stage!

The Entertainment

The evening’s entertainment lineup, sponsored by Qualico Communities, included:

And in the lobby, guests enjoyed art by Jennie Vegt and Jeff Collins, curated by The Works.

2015 Mayor's Celebration of the Arts

All of the performances were great but just like last year, I was particularly impressed by Mary Pinkoski. I thought the addition of Eva Foote and dancers Jeannie and Jodie Vandekerkhove nicely elevated her slam poetry. DJ CreeAsian brought a fun vibe to the evening and, combined with the incredible moves of Rhythm Speaks, opened the show with a lot of energy. I really enjoyed The Wet Secrets and Capital City Burlesque at the end of the night, even though it was probably a bit loud for some in the audience. Le Fuzz are no strangers to the Mayor’s Celebration and this year they provided the entertainment in the lobby after the show.

Other Thoughts

Was it just me or was there a very noticeable Make Something Edmonton undercurrent to the evening? Perhaps undercurrent is the wrong word as the term “maker” was used more than once throughout the event. It was in the speeches and it was in the art too, with Mary Pinkoski and Eva Foote’s performance and the snippet of Birdie on the Wrong Bus being the most overt. I’m not complaining – I love the newfound confidence that seems to be permeating Edmonton lately. Last night was just another example.

This was the second year for Catch the Keys Productions and they continue to take the event in new and interesting directions. Congrats to Megan and Beth on another excellent evening! The program had a good consistent pace even though more time was given this year to talk about the nominees (which I really appreciated). Elm Cafe was again brought in to cater snacks in the lobby (the fennel brown butter and garam masala popcorn was amazing) along with macarons from Duchess Bake Shop. I’m not sure the attendance was as strong as past years, and that’s too bad because it really was a great show!

For more photos from the evening, check out Diversity Magazine. You can read last year’s recap here.

See you at the 2016 Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts!

Mayor Iveson on Budget 2015, Council’s 2%, City Charter, and more

On Monday, Mayor Iveson held a lunchtime “editorial board” at his office for some local bloggers. He seemed energized and excited to talk about the budget, even though he was in the middle of a day-long public hearing and barely had time to eat. Given the limited time we had available, we didn’t cover as much as I would have liked, but we did get to hear from the mayor on some important budget-related topics. Here are some that I wanted to highlight.

Mayor Don Iveson

Demystifying the Budget

Describing the budget as “by far the most complex piece of governing that we do,” Mayor Iveson said he was pleased with the attempts this year to demystify it for Edmontonians. He cited the new City Budget microsite and the associated PDF primer as two positive examples of a different approach to getting budget information to citizens.

He also mentioned the Reddit AMA with CFO Lorna Rosen. I thought that was a great initiative, but there weren’t as many questions as I expected. I asked Mayor Iveson what the City can do to increase the budget literacy so that people feel empowered to ask more meaningful questions.

“How do you usefully simplify 600 pages of information into a high level, ‘where does the money go?’,” he asked rhetorically. “People have every right to say, ‘where does this money go'” but he noted that it’s certainly not an easy process. One positive example was the Edmonton Insight Community, which serves as an educational tool as much as an input tool. More than 800 Edmontonians spent an average of 24 minutes using the interactive tool that was part of the Edmonton Insight Community survey on the budget.

“I think we could go one step further in the future, with an interactive website,” he added. The mayor envisions being able to put in your tax roll and see how your contribution breaks down by department. He says Edmontonians would be pleasantly surprised to see that the City does indeed spend the bulk of its money on the things that citizens say are important to them.

Progress on Council’s 2%

During the election, Mayor Iveson proposed a new program called “Council’s 2%” that would require City Administration to find about 2% in increased efficiency every year. The goal would be to take the roughly $20 million saved per year and invest that into either infrastructure improvements or other innovative ideas.

The goal this year was to find about $23 million in savings. So how did the City do? “They were able to find tangible changes in the $15.5 million dollar range, which for the first year out, is pretty good,” Mayor Iveson told us. But he made it clear that this work is about more than the figures. “The point is less about the exact dollar, and is about the goal of continuous improvement, and being transparent with the governors and the public about the accomplishments that they’re making.”

It’s a culture change, from what Mayor Iveson calls “pin the tail on the budget” to interactions based on trust. “We trust our staff to do the right thing if they are given the right incentives and given the right recognition for doing the right thing.” Instead of padding the budget because they think Council will just try to cut a few million, the goal is to have Administration put forward the most realistic figures they can. Mayor Iveson explained that a tiny change in assumptions can often translate into millions of dollars in the budget. Over time, that trust could translate into greater acceptance by Council of ideas brought forward by Administration, where as previous Councils would have remained skeptical.

So while the City is off to a good start with Council’s 2%, there’s still a lot of work to be done. “It’s a term-long project to instill that culture,” Mayor Iveson said.

Big City Charter

Everyone knows that Calgary, Edmonton, and the Province have been holding discussions on the idea of a big city charter, but no one seems to know where that effort is going or how successful it’ll be. Mayor Iveson said the question is not whether Edmonton will get anything from the effort, but how much we’ll get. “Getting nothing is a politically unacceptable result,” he told us. “There’s too much political expectation that something must be done.”

The mayor made his case for receiving a bigger piece of the pie. Or as he put it, “some equity in consideration of the fact that we are a hub for northern Alberta.” Though he did talk briefly about the importance of having stable funding for and “line of sight” on big infrastructure projects like LRT expansion and improvements to the Yellowhead, the mayor focused more on working with the Province in his comments.

For instance, he spent quite a bit of time talking about the cost of the Edmonton Police Service. “Policing is a huge area were we can give example after example of the load that Edmonton is carrying for northern Alberta,” he explained. He said EPS deals with national and sometimes international criminal phenomena (like cybercrime) but is funded almost entirely by Edmonton property taxes. Noting the importance of the work, he said “I don’t want to get out of that business, I just want appropriate help.”

Mayor Iveson lamented the fact that Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) funding has not been increased in quite some time, and said “if we don’t deal with some of those things proactively they can become policing challenges, which is the most expensive thing we do.” He talked about preventing people from needing to access health care, as an example, which is a big piece of the provincial budget. “I’m less interested in just getting the Province to just pay for a whole bunch more cops,” he said. “What I’m really interested in is getting the Province to fund FCSS.” It’s about working together on prevention.

That’s the mayor’s takeaway message. “The City Charter isn’t just us with a hand out,” he said, “it’s us with a handshake.”

Neighbourhood Renewal

The 1.5% levy to fund neighbourhood renewal looks like it’ll remain in place for the foreseeable future. Repeating something he has said before, Mayor Iveson told us that “people want lower taxes and they want me to fix their streets – I can’t do both.”

The general sentiment he’s hearing is that people are fine with paying a little bit more in tax now because they see things changing. They see neighbourhoods getting reconstructed, and they see potholes getting filled, they see roads being improved.

“I do worry that in the newer areas there may be less understanding that we are building up a reserve fund,” he admitted. The mayor explained that after 15 years, neighbourhoods will get preventative maintenance, and at 60 years of age, they’ll get rebuilt on time. Thanks to the neighbourhood renewal fund, new neighbourhoods won’t fall into the state of disrepair that some of our mature neighbourhoods have. “It’s actually the old neighbourhoods that got off scot-free over the last 60 years by not contributing to such a fund.”

Though he has previously suggested there might be light at the end of the tunnel for those looking for a tax break, the mayor clarified that comment. “The neighbourhood renewal levy will be fully funded on an ongoing revolving basis as of about 2018,” he told us. So you can count on that 1.5% tax levy for at least the next four years.

Mayor Don Iveson

Final Thoughts

I was very glad to have some time to hear directly from Mayor Iveson on the budget. It’s great to see that he is willing to reach out to bloggers and other social media folks, too. Budget discussions continue at City Hall for the next couple of weeks, and you can find all the relevant information here.

Politicians in the 2014 Edmonton Pride Parade

Here’s a look at some of the politicians that participated in the Pride Parade that made its way through Edmonton’s downtown early this afternoon.

Edmonton Pride Parade 2014
Premier Dave Hancock

Former premier Alison Redford was the first premier to attend a pride parade when she addressed the crowd in Churchill Square back in 2012. She followed that up last year by becoming the first premier to march in a pride parade when she acted as grand marshal for Calgary’s parade. Premier Dave Hancock became the first premier to participate in Edmonton’s Pride Parade today.

Edmonton Pride Parade 2014
MLA Laurie Blakeman

Edmonton Pride Parade 2014
MLA Raj Sherman

Edmonton Pride Parade 2014
Mayor Don Iveson

Former Edmonton mayor Bill Smith repeatedly refused to proclaim Gay Pride Week in Edmonton, but that all changed in 2005 when former mayor Stephen Mandel proclaimed Pride Week. He became the first Edmonton mayor to participate in a pride parade when he rode that year in a car alongside Michael Phair, the city’s first openly gay elected official. Mayor Don Iveson has supported the parade for years.

Edmonton Pride Parade 2014
Mayor Don Iveson, Councillor Scott McKeen, Councillor Ben Henderson

Edmonton Pride Parade 2014
Councillor Dave Loken

Edmonton Pride Parade 2014
Councillor Andrew Knack

Councillors Walters & Henderson
Councillor Michael Walters & Councillor Ben Henderson, photo courtesy Michael Walters

Edmonton Pride Parade 2014
Randy Boissonnault, Liberal nomination candidate for Edmonton Centre

Edmonton Pride Parade 2014
The Liberal Party

Edmonton Pride Parade 2014
The NDP

Edmonton Pride Parade 2014
The Alberta Party

You can see many more photos of the parade here. The Pride Festival runs through June 15.

Recap: 2014 Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts

The 27th annual Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts took place last night at the Winspear Centre. It was the first for Don Iveson as mayor, and he seemed to enjoy the opportunity, telling the audience, “I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t one of the reasons I wanted to be mayor.” He made a point of shaking every winner and performer’s hand on stage, and happily snapped photos with and high-fived other nominees and guests in the lobby before and after the show. He even took out his phone while on stage and said, “it’s not an awards show without a selfie!”

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js This year’s event supported the Music Enrichment Program, which provides stringed music and orchestral lessons to children across the city. The non-profit organization first began in 1959, and today is administered by the Edmonton String Players Association. Here’s a sample of the work of some of their students:

Here’s an excerpt from Mayor Iveson’s message in the program:

“This yearly event brings together artists, businesses, media and many others to celebrate our city’s finest artistic talent. Supporting our arts scene is integral to making Edmonton a diverse, vibrant place to live, and I congratulate tonight’s nominees for contributing to our city’s dynamism and quality of life.”

The evening was hosted by Bridget Ryan and Mark Meer, a wonderful pair that kept things moving with humor and energy throughout. Behind them was an incredible stage built by Production World which featured original artwork by Jason Blower. The best part is that it was animated!

2014 Mayor's Celebration of the Arts

The full list of nominees is available at the PACE website. Here are the winners:

Mayor’s Award for Innovative Support by a Business of the Arts
Capital Power Corporation, nominated by Art Gallery of Alberta

Mayor’s Award for Sustained Support of the Arts
Steven LePoole, nominated by Alberta Baroque Music Society

John Poole Award for Promotion of the Arts
CJSR FM 88.5, nominated by Ramparts Entertainment

ATB Financial Ambassador of the Arts Award
Prairie Dog Film + Television, nominated by Jesse Szymanski

ATCO Gas Award for Outstanding Lifetime Achievement
Douglas D. Barry, nominated by Dr. Adiranna Davies CM

CN Award for Youth Artist
Rebecca Lappa, nominated by Martha Livingstone

DIALOG Award for Excellence in Artistic Direction
Ron E. Scott, nominated by Jesse Szymanski

Northlands Award for an Emerging Artist
Doug Organ, nominated by Chris Szott

The 2014 Robert Kroetch City of Edmonton Book Prize
Selected Poems, by Tim Bowling

Syncrude Award for Excellence in Arts Management
Dave Cunningham, nominated by Film and Visual Arts Society

TELUS Courage to Innovate Award
Darcia Parada, nominated by Jodine Chase

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners!

2014 Mayor's Celebration of the Arts

The lobby also featured the work of three visual artists:

The evening’s performances included:

The program run quicker than in previous years, taking just over an hour and forty-five minutes. It flew by with the amazing performances the audience was treated to! Jeff Stuart got things started with a great three-song set, which featured wonderful strings. We got a taste of the show Mercy of a Storm by Brian Dooley and Gianna Vacirca. Ariane Mahryke Lemire’s performance a little while later was Sharon’s favorite of the evening. I thought our Poet Laureate, Mary Pinkoski, stole the show with her incredible slam poetry. We took a break for some humor next, with a bit from The Irrelevant Show that joked about the Edmonton Oilers and their continued rebuild into the year 2029. Closing out the formal program was Mitchmatic, who provided the music for Kelsey Wolver’s impressive hoop dancing and Sugar Swing’s high-energy number.

2014 Mayor's Celebration of the Arts

After the formal program guests were encouraged to enjoy drinks and food in the lobby. Elm Cafe made some delicious tasting boards that very quickly disappeared! With the quicker program, it seemed like more people were willing to stick around.

2014 Mayor's Celebration of the Arts

Kudos to the Professional Arts Coalition of Edmonton for another successful event, but I want to especially recognize Catch the Keys Productions. This was the first year that Megan and Beth Dart worked with the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts, and I thought they absolutely hit it out of the park! They produced the evening and are directly responsible for all of the wonderful things I wrote about above. Great work, and I can’t wait to see how you’re going to top this!

You can read last year’s recap here. See you at the 2015 Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts!

I was thrilled to once again play a small role on the Steering Committee for the event. It’ll be interesting to see how the Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts evolves now that Mayor Iveson will be around at the start of planning for 2015!