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Booming business for Alberta’s food banks

Canada food bank usage

(Food bank use in Canada – 2014 Hunger Count)

An economy perpetually tied to the price of oil is stumbling, the government knows of at least 4,544 layoff notices being handed out, and business at Alberta’s food banks is booming.

One of the barometers for poverty and the health of our society is food bank usage. In Alberta, since 2008, demand for assistance from food banks has increase by 48%.

In September, the Edmonton Food Bank distributed 14,000 hampers to those in need. This January, demand rose to 16,000. Picture a capacity crowd in Rexall Place calling on the Food Bank for help each month.

As winter began, the Calgary Food Bank reported a 10% increase in demand from 2013. Within 2014, Calgary was distributing 200 more hampers per month in the fall, than they were at the beginning of summer.

Food Bank demand spikes as oil prices fall and Alberta’s economy stumbles. But in good times or bad, it still increases.

If Alberta’s soon to be past and future MLAs are looking for a volunteer opportunity in the next little while, donating some time to answer calls from, or packing food hampers for individuals and families who need help, might not be a bad idea.

It would certainly put them in the room with those who would like to ask the question; what’s next for social policy in Alberta? A topic that wasn’t the recipient of much discussion or debate  during the race for the Premiership, or during the byelection campaigns.

What of a soon to be upon us general election? Alberta’s Social Policy Framework, “the future direction social policy in Alberta”, seems to have stalled. Or perhaps exited the political scene with the departure of former Human Services Minister Dave Hancock. Working in the non-profit community sector, we seem to be a world away from the Premier’s office. Alberta’s child poverty rate is pretty much unchanged since 1989. 18% of children in Edmonton live in poverty according to the latest numbers from the Edmonton Social Planning Council. And food banks in Alberta are being flooded with demand.

In recent weeks we’ve talked about $800 dollar chairs and condominium priced tables in Government meeting rooms. The funding that the Auditor General and Child and Youth Advocate need to fulfill their extensive mandates, and the speed at which government-dominated committees give and take from their budgets. But the other issues out there..

To quote  from the Edmonton Journal’s Graham Thomson:

Kill 500 ducks in an Alberta tailings pond and you hear outrage from around the world.

Yet, turn away 27,000 women and children from Alberta emergency shelters and you hear barely a whisper. Close six group homes for troubled children and there isn’t a peep. Shut down 12 foster homes and there’s only silence.

Non-profit agencies across Alberta are facing a crisis and odds are you had no idea — not unless you were an abused woman, a troubled teen or a neglected child.

Crisis is easy. It’s easily manufactured through apathy by voters and government. The latter enabled by the former. The next four years are too important to treat this election like a spectator sport, to keep your vote at home or to let it be decided by narrow and vague campaign messaging. People are hurting, people are in crisis and it’s happening regardless of the price of oil and where we are on the energy-dependance roller coaster.

Where does the candidate at your door stand on Alberta’s social issues? Do you know, do they know? Take the time to find out, to know the person who wants to represent you on the floor of the legislature. A lot of people in need are counting on you.


Fort McMurray food bank sees dramatic increase in demand

Edmonton Food Bank experiencing record calls in time of need

Food bank use soars in Alberta as cost of living increases

Calgary Food Bank demand on the rise


Edmonton City Centre Airport a Done Deal

Krushell said medevac is a red herring.

“We want to ensure there’s a system in place that addresses that, but International (airport) has plenty of capacity and so does Villeneuve,” Krushell said.

Mandel mum on details after Smith meet-and-greet

“He assured that they’re not going to close the city centre airport until there is another option” at Villeneuve airport, now undergoing upgrades west of the city.


Quarterly Update of the Redevelopment of the City Centre Airport

Edmonton Regional Airports Authority advises that land is available at Edmonton International Airport and at Villeneuve where a tenant/Medevac could design and construct a new hangar sufficient to replace their existing space at Edmonton City Centre Airport, within one year.


Kim Krushell – City Centre Airport

Training pilots do not pay landing fees in the same way as other users of the ECCA that contribute to the operational revenues of ECCA. Furthermore, the training pilots take off and land from ECCA, but they do most of their actual training at Villeneuve or the International Airport (EIA).

There are 21 aviation-related leases in place at the City Centre Airport, which includes businesses like the Edmonton Police Services and the Flying Club. All of these businesses can be accommodated at either the Edmonton International Airport or the Villeneuve Airport.

Economic Impact Study of Villeneuve Airport and Cooking Lake Airport – 2006

Villeneuve Airport is the primary flight training facility of the Edmonton region. Businesses

offer flight training in a range of aircraft, including helicopters, and the site is often host to

air cadet glider training.

Villeneuve and Cooking Lake Airports generate direct employment in the Edmonton region

and contribute significantly to the Alberta economy. The significance of the airports in

terms of the provincial economy is demonstrated by the direct economic impact of the

airports’ employment on GDP and output; of $8 million and $20 million respectively – total

impacts of $18 million and $43 million using economic multipliers.

Villeneuve and Cooking Lake Airports are also important generators of taxation revenues

to all levels of government. Total taxes paid on an annual basis, by employers, employees

and airport users, are estimated at $2 million. Combined tax contributions for the two

airports amounts to $1,300,000 to the federal government, $500,000 to the provincial

government, and $200,000 to their municipal governments.


If I’m a resident of Villeneuve, I might be mad or at least perturbed that future development in my small community was vetoed at the Capital Region Board level by Edmonton and St. Albert. I might find some humor in the fact that St. Albert’s airport closed several years ago, and that Edmonton’s City Centre Airport is soon to be redeveloped (a good thing if done well, worth some grumbling if fumbled). And I might be prepared to ask why Edmonton, having made the case for Villeneuve’s growth itself, now chooses to stand in opposition.

The quotes and news picks above could easily be thrown in with clippings from the ECCA closure debate, which made the case for Villeneuve as a home for flight training, aircraft movements and even medevac operations moving from the City Centre.

The Capital Region Board’s Land Use Plan establishes residential density targets of 30-45 units per hectare.  Ensuring sustainable land use, that a municipality has the density required to afford it’s infrastructure, services, and the viability of local amenities is a shared responsibility in the region.  And an area plan that contravenes reasonable targets for density and housing options should indeed expect to be met with opposition at the CRB level.

And In Villeneuve, a case could well be made for a variety of housing types, outside of single-family units with rolling back yards in a proposed plan that falls outside of the region’s land use planning mandates.  Affordable/rental townhomes or apartments for pilots in training who won’t be in the community long-term.  Options to accommodate a growth in population that’s going to be tied to increased usage of Villeneuve airport, and the industrial/commercial amenities which arrive to support it.

The case now becomes, should the municipality and developer reapply with a plan that accommodates multple housing and density targets, what is the board to do?

But staff at the Capital Region Board recommended against the project because Villeneuve doesn’t sit in any of the board’s designated priority growth areas.  

Villeneuve may not be in previously established priority growth area, but with the emphasis placed on their Hamlet through the closure of the ECCA and St. Albert airports, Villeneuve residents who don’t pay close attention to politics or civic policy could probably be forgiven for thinking that they were.

The CRB shall review the priority growth areas in conjunction with, or subsequent to, the approval of: a.   Changes to the routing of Light Rail Transit (LRT) or regional bus service in the Capital Region Intermunicipal Transit Plan; b.   Creation of new or significant adjustments to major employment areas in the Plan area; and c.   New alignments or changes to alignments and/or location of major regional infrastructure.

Villeneuve airport is a piece of regional infrastructure, under the management of the Edmonton Regional Airports Association. It’s been placed into a position where it can expect an increase in usage, a demand for improvements and investment, and potential spin-offs to the area in terms of housing demand and supportive amenities. Perhaps it’s time to draw a circle in the CRB’s priority growth areas around Villeneuve. We want individuals to be able to “live locally” in their communities, and we’ve placed Villeneuve is a position to expect some form of influx of demand.  It’s only good planning, to plan to accommodate it.

FOIP’ed Ya!

The FOIP Act adds to all the other rights of individuals and organizations with respect to the access to information and protection of personal information within local public bodies.

Good business practices are the best way to operate in a FOIP environment. When you are making notes, or sending an e-mail, write it as though it could appear on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow. The Act doesn’t allow severing to avoid embarrassment. If events are recorded in an accurate, descriptive fashion, there is no cause for alarm in releasing records.

I mentioned e-mail: as e-mails are records, if we received a FOIP request, e-mails would be considered for release. It is worth mentioning them specifically as sometimes people are more casual in how they write e-mails, or mix business and pleasure in one note as if it were a phone call.


The FOIP Act. Presentation for Elected Officials



The FOIP act does make it possible for individuals and organizations to acquire the correspondence of individual politicians relating to government business.  In my experience, it’s neither easy nor possible without several months of exchanging correspondence and occasionally barbs with FOIP coordinators.  I’ve done it twice in the course of my volunteer activities, in relation to a specific decision and a government program.  Both requests took nearly six-months, with one ending successfully with delivery of the requested records, and the other ending in a dispute which the Privacy Commissioner ultimately refused to move on to an adjudicator.

The FOIP act does work to protect the personal lives of politicians and the right to individual privacy.  No need to worry about a FOIP coordinator copying letters to your mother and the notes on your fridge.

So when the business of government starts taking place away from formal channels, the communication resources paid for by our taxes and access to Freedom of Information requests, is there an issue?

Morton accused of evading public scrutiny with secondary email address, shredded documents

Campaign spokesman insists both practices common in government



“I think I’ve done nothing out of the ordinary,” Morton said

Premier Ed Stelmach confirmed that he, too, maintains a secondary email address and uses it to conduct government business. Former deputy premier and leadership candidate Doug Horner also used a separate government email to do ministerial work.

Do provincial FOIP coordinators have access to all secondary communication channels, outside the control of the Government of Alberta, used to conduct formal government business?  Are these email addresses subject to the same data retention policies and practices in use on officially provided communication tools?  Has official government business conducted on secondary addresses been excluded from Freedom of Information Requests; ie, considered personal, not government correspondence?

Until questions are answered, I’d call this a wee bit of a problem, definitely one worthy of further investigation, both at the provincial and municipal levels.  As for it being “out of the ordinary”, well, if everyone is potentially dodging the FOIP act, intentionally or not, then I guess it isn’t.

District E

It was a great turnout and a full agenda at the EFCL’s regular general meeting on Monday.  You can visit efcl.org to download the agenda, the Planning Committee update is on pg 34.  I was appointed as the District E representative on the Planning & Development Committee, thank you to the Meadowlark Community League for nominating me for the position.  The following communities fall within the district:

Britannia Youngstown – Canora – Crestwood – Elmwood – Glenora – Glenwood – Grovenor – High Park – Jasper Park – Laurier Heights – Lynnwood – Mayfield – McQueen – Meadowlark – North Glenora – Parkview – West Jasper/Sherwood – West Meadowlark

Family-friendly multi-unit housing, zoning bylaw amendments, transit oriented development, and living local recreation facility planning currently top the committee’s agenda.  We recently held a well attended workshop for the family-friendly initiative and are currently reviewing the feedback from participants.   The proposed Urban Character Row Housing Zone is one of the areas relating to zoning bylaw which the committee is focusing on.  With the Residential Infill Guidelines recommending the development of row housing across from schools and parks, we are working to ensure that the zone allows for appropriate amenity space for families, with a pedestrian friendly street orientation.  We have been attending key stakeholder workgroups for the proposed Transit and Land Use Framework, which when completed, will guide land-use around transit stations and corridors.  We are hopeful that public feedback will be solicited for the next draft version in November.

November 4th Update:

There are two stakeholder group events for the TOD framework scheduled for December, but still no word on public involvement events.