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Parties and Charities: The Tale of Two Tax Credits

“..lowering the charitable credit recognizes that people give for other reasons than tax rebates.” – Department of Finance Spokesperson, Metro News

It’s probably quite true that most donate to charity without expecting anything in return. The more sharp tongued of individuals might publicly ask if the same can be said of larger political contributions. Regardless, with Budget 2015, the tax credit for donations to political parties remains unchanged while that for charitable contributions over $200 drops to one of the lowest rates among provinces and territories. Falling from 21% to 12.5%, only Ontario (11.16% and Nunavut (11.50%) will have a lower rate.

My close-up charitable experience comes from volunteering with a food bank. To collect and distribute food across a city requires putting trucks on the road. So you can also factor in the rising gas tax as an increased price of doing business, and a driver of food bank demand as transportation costs raise the price of food. As I’ve mentioned before, food bank use is rising, in bad times and good.

How will the cut to the charitable tax credit impact food banks, and everyone who provides the services and supports that are used more and more as the economy sputters?

But D.D. Coutts, manager of communications for the Calgary Food Bank, said she believes many organizations, particularly those in the human services field, will be hurt by the move.

“We’re not concerned about people’s generosity because people were donating before there was any tax credit and are very generous to donate,” Coutts said. – Calgary Herald, Calgary charities worried about drop in donations after province cuts tax credits

The Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations, Calgary Chamber and Volunteer Alberta would agree, having launched their “Now is Not the Time” campaign:

Budget 2015 asks Albertans to pay more in taxes and fees at a time when many will have reduced earnings. Less disposable income means less money available to donate to charity.

When the economy slows, all forms of revenue for charities are reduced. Alberta charities are already seeing reductions in corporate donations and government funding continues to stagnate. At the same time, many charities are called upon to respond to increased community needs.

The tax credit reduction follows on the heels of the elimination of the Community Spirit Donation Matching program, which was also designed to incent charitable giving.

http://www.nowisnotthetime.ca/

A petition has also been launched at http://www.albertans4giving.ca.

This leaves Alberta’s charities and non-profits to do what they’ve always done. Maintain minimal admin costs, provide services and supports that the government does not, and do more with less as demand for services increases.

Lend them a  hand by continuing to be generous with your donations, and throw a letter to your MLA in with that as well.

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.

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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

Until the next boom floats us out to sea.

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The price of oil has fallen and it’s taken the sky down with it.

The price of oil has been falling and projected to fall for some time. It was projected when Jim Prentice was on the leadership campaign trail. It was projected while Prentice, Gordon Dirks and Stephen Mandel were on the byelection campaign trail. While promises were made for new schools and to complete the new schools promised by two previous Premiers. While sod was turned for photo-ops in fields that will remain empty for some time, and when Gordon Dirks was flexing the electoral muscle of his Ministry with promises of new school portables in his riding. While all four candidates to be government MLAs were sending empty chairs to candidate forums.

But now oil has hit bottom, at least for now, and $7 billion or so is gone from provincial revenues. The Premier’s plan thus far is to remove 5% from budget for the coming year, while withholding the 4% that would normally have gone to compensating for inflation, population growth and uptake in services.

An early election will be called, and voters will give a massive majority to the Prentice government.

The Wildrose will be led into battle by a leader who won’t be seeking re-election. The Liberals? There’s a very good chance David Swann will be in Legislature once the spring session resumes after the vote. Even if he’s only a caucus of one at that point. The Alberta Party? Calgary-Elbow has every reason to put an end to Gordon Dirks’ embarrassing tenure by electing AB Party Leader, Greg Clark. However, not everything needs a reason in politics (see MLA Genia Leskiw not needing any kind of articulate, sensible or coherent explanation for withdrawing $250,000 from the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate).

The Premier says that the opposition has a duty to be ready for an election.

Do they have a duty to be ready for a fixed election-date? Absolutely.

But with a year left on a his government’s mandate, an early election, without a dramatic plan to shift away from the poor fiscal management of Alberta’s PC government, is pure opportunism.

A dramatic shift being a clear and defined plan to finally remove Alberta from the resource roller-coaster and establish a course to stabilize government revenue. But there’s no sign yet that the Premier is coming to the table with a platform for a progressive tax system, royalty reform, heritage saving and so on. We may not even see a budget tabled before an election call.

So why wait until spring of 2016 for the next election? What’s in a year?

A year for Jim Prentice to develop an actual, detailed platform. To show voters how “new management” handles the books on the downside of resource dependence. A year for two opposition parties to elect new leaders. Time for all parties to finish developing a set of policies, and a heck of a lot of time for candidates to hit the doors, and for those who don’t have the benefit of incumbency or well-timed Ministry announcements, to let voters know who they are.

Alberta is more than the petrochemicals we drill and frack out of the ground. Our Premier can do better than drawing the curtains closed, dimming the lights and taking to the podium time after time with tales of fiscal woe.

Yes Mr. Premier, we know we’re dependant on oil revenue. We know there’s a glut of it on the market, demand is down and prices along with it. So what’s the plan, besides bloodletting until fortunes improve?

What’s our place in the world outside of non-renewable resources? What’s the future for education and healthcare, agriculture and farming? What’s in store for our cities in a province where population growth is in urban areas? How can we grow our economy by feeding the world’s population? How can develop and export knowledge, technology and renewable energy?

Just as important, how do we engage citizens to get there? We have a government that treats ‘consultation’ like a silly word, or perhaps a dirty one. The Legislature is a difficult building to walk into, even if all you want is a tour. Budgets, policies and decisions are treated as things developed behind closed doors, then sold and marketed to you and I.

This election certainly won’t be based on any of those broad ideas. It won’t feature detailed policy or broad debate on our future. No, it’s about securing the next four years for those who are comfortably unchallenged. What do they intend to do with these years? I doubt most sitting government MLAs could begin to tell you, beyond ‘fiscal restraint’ for the year ahead. We won’t know until months after an election, what that will actually mean for front-line delivery in areas like health, education and human services.

Cutting 9% from spending isn’t a plan for the future or a beacon of light and strong leadership by Mr. Prentice. It’s the hand (gently?) guiding us to the rocks until the next boom floats us back out to sea (we won’t waste the next one, right?).

So when you pick up that sharp pencil at the polling place, have a debate with yourself. Do you want this government to be comfortable for the next four years, or can we challenge ourselves and those we elect to do better? Voting for a candidate that’s challenging the government may be the only way we find out.

Laws, Sausages and Huge Massive Loopholes

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The good news is that Alberta has a Conflicts of Interest Act (coming in a future blog, Alberta’s Whistleblower Act and how it’s also full of holes). The bad news is that the definition of “conflict of interest” is either so thin you could put it in a razor and shave with it, or a loop hole so large you could store school portables in it.

Alberta’s Ethics Commissioner, one of the Officers of the Legislature who found their budget cut in December, while clearing him of formal wrongdoing, released as scathing a report on the election tactics of Education Minister Gordon Dirks as Alberta’s conflict of interest legislation allows her.

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Download the full ruling

Not many punches pulled. Was the Minister’s announcement of portables for a school in his riding political opportunism? Sure. Would the commissioner have told him not to do it if he had bothered to seek her counsel? You bet. Will be legislation be changed to prevent this sort of thing in the future? Not a chance.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba both place restrictions on the use of Government resources as a campaign tool during general elections and by-elections. While the Premier was promising to “restore faith” with this fall’s Accountability Act, his government rejected proposed amendments which would have prevented government Ministers and MLAs from wielding government dollars and promises like someone waving an election sign at a busy intersection.

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Brian Mason in the Legislature on the evening of December 10th.

In fall of 2013, the Conflicts of Interest Act went before committee for review. The result was superficial, with recommendations such as changes to the definition of ‘private interest’, the ability to sanction members who don’t cooperate with the ethics commissioner and for the commissioner to instigate investigations on his/her own, being rejected.

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Read the full committee report

 

The NDP, in their minority report to the committee, addressed the issue of ‘private interest’, at that time in regards to the inquiry into lobbying efforts of the MLA for Edmonton-Manning:

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The Officers of the Legislature, who have had their budgets cut for the coming year, can find, highlight and point out poor behaviour by those in power and the abuse or mismanagement of resources. But they have little in the way of legislative tools to hold government to account and institute change. Only the voters can do that. So I’ll ask you, my fellow electors, when can we change the way things are done in this province? The more things don’t change, the more they stay same. And with a lessened opposition, difficult freedom of information legislature to use and navigate, and reduced funding to the legislative officers, the less we’re likely to even know about.

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Education Minister Gordon Dirks used office for political gain: ethics boss – Global News

The Alberta Legislature – A year in Photoshop

I follow our bizarre and frustratingly detached from reality and the average citizen, provincial political scene for both work and personal interest. It often leaves me wishing that I had the artistic skills for political cartoons. Photoshop however, still provides me with an outlet. So here you are, my best political ‘shops from the last year, or rather all of them, since they were all gold.

 

A Shout-out to Yeg’s Fastest Runners

1:00am in the river valley at the Tuxedos & Gowns run for @yegfoodbank #yeg

A video posted by Jamie Post (@jamiepost) on

It’s cold, snowing, the roads suck and I’ve seen one email stating that life as we know it is over for the year. In reality, the ice and day-time sub-zero have arrived a week later this year, than they have the past couple.

For the past several years, Edmonton runners and willing participants have defied poor weather and icy river valley trails and sidewalks to take part in the Running Room’s “Tuxedos, Gowns and Hotdogs” fun run in support of the Edmonton Food Bank.

Starting at 1:59am during the fall time change, runners provided donations and raised money for the Food Bank, heading into the high-demand Christmas Season. Despite the early arrival of winter these past few years, they still made the effort and even with the icy conditions, many finished before the clocks reached 1:59, again.

2014 will have been the final year for this event., with perhaps the best weather. As a Food Bank volunteer who looked forward to heading down to the Kinsmen Centre every year to help out, I’ll miss our fun and quirky fundraiser. Thank you to the runners and volunteers who donated and took part. As well as to the Running Room, and Judy from the Food Bank who made organizing it look easy.

A ‘market’ solution to our affordable housing crisis

Edmonton and Calgary are struggling with a lack of affordable housing, while Calgary’s shelters run at capacity with winter looming. Both cities are also grappling with the infrastructure and transportation costs of on-going urban sprawl and the servicing costs of new neighbourhoods.

Alberta’s big cities need affordable housing, and they need infill development that can attract families to the urban core. Both cities also have development industries that have grown and sustained themselves on the large margins of cheap suburban land and development.

The Premier has stated that he wants a market solution to Alberta’s affordable housing problem. The situation doesn’t need ideology, it needs concrete plans, of the sort that we didn’t see in this by-election. It needs housing starts; affordable homes and rental units, in places where a car isn’t a necessity to live. With some initial support, the non-profit sector could put the housing that Alberta’s cities need, on the market.

A few examples:

It’s called the Quint Development Corporation. Founded by residents with the support of government, it’s been building affordable housing in Saskatoon for almost twenty years.

It’s called the Central Neighbourhoods Development Corporation and was founded in 2007 to help revitalize inner-city Winnipeg neighbourhoods.

“A community development corporation (CDC) is a not-for-profit organization incorporated to provide programs, offer services and engage in other activities that promote and support community development. CDCs usually serve a geographic location such as a neighborhood or a town. They often focus on serving lower-income residents or struggling neighborhoods. They can be involved in a variety of activities including economic development, education, community organizing and real estate development. These organizations are often associated with the development of affordable housing.” – Wikipedia

I received my introduction to the concept of community development corporations while volunteering time to work on Edmonton’s Transit Oriented Development Guidelines for the EFCL. The city had brought in a consultant to speak to TOD, best practices, affordable housing, etc. The part that stood out to me was on affordable housing and how, in their experience, most affordable housing around transit/light-rail in the U.S. was being built by non-profit development corps.

For us community volunteers in attendance, the idea stuck, and we suggested it for inclusion into the final report for Mayor Mandel’s Community Sustainability Taskforce. Non-profit organizations that with some initial seed money, could take on a role building infill and affordable housing in some of Edmonton’s older neighbourhoods. The suggestion unfortunately wasn’t included in the Elevate Report, but it’s still being pursued.

With the development and housing issues that Edmonton and Calgary are currently facing, it’s an idea that we should begin discussing on a provincial scale.

Initiating non-profit redevelopment agencies in Alberta’s cities isn’t just a way to help boost housing stock and increase neighbourhood density. They’re an avenue for community development; giving residents a chance to help guide the built-form of their neighbourhoods and educating residents on the trials and costs of building in older communities.

Our older neighbourhoods also struggle with derelict properties, and there are few legislative tools for municipalities to take action on them. A derelict property sees its municipal taxes decrease, while becoming a blight on the community. A new cities charter may or may not give municipal councils tools such as tax levies to encourage redevelopment of a property. Having a community-owned developer who’s ready and willing to purchase and rebuild a problem property into an asset for the community, helps regardless.

Between Government and ‘the market’ there’s a way to help build affordable housing, transit-oriented development, and alternatives to urban sprawl. It’s worked in the U.S., and it’s worked in other provinces. Community league volunteers have been talking about it for years. It’s time for MLAs and Councillors to do the same.

The Misericordia – Spackle & Paint

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Last year’s flood at the Mis which closed one floor and spilled down into a few retail shops in the main lobby.

If the Legislature were in the same shape as west Edmonton’s Misericordia hospital, we’d probably have a new catalyst project for downtown, along with cranky government minister’s with leaky office ceilings. 45 years-old, built when West Edmonton Mall was still a field; the Mis was at the city’s edge, whereas its location now at 87th and 170th street, puts it in the heart of west Edmonton, easily accessible and along the Valley LRT line.

These days the Mis is known for its “leaky pipes, broken elevators, and makeshift ICUs”. A flood in mid-2013 closed a floor and spilled down into the main lobby. Labs and the ICU are subject to rain delays and snow melt. Elevators are frequently down for maintenance, and patient amenities are older than a number of adult patients.

As Edmonton media have pointed out (as have NDP and Wildrose MLAs over this legislative session), the facility was due to be replaced in 2008, until those plans were scrapped.

Fred Horne misleading Albertans over aging Misericordia, NDP says – CBC News

“I think I’ve been very open with Albertans and Edmontonians, in question period and through the media, that we’re well aware of the issues at the Misericordia,” he said.

Questions on this during question period, like most, don’t receive much of an answer, or at least one that’s of any use to west-end residents. The same goes for quotes from a health minister who may know of the issues, but might perhaps want to spend an evening in the ICU during a rain storm.

Meanwhile nothing is certain beyond more money being spent to squeeze every last bit of life out of a building on life support. And of course the question I’ll have for candidates at the first Edm-Meadowlark election forum.

What will come First?

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A pothole in the parking lot that nearly ate my care last summer. Just posting it because parking isn’t cheap. The surrounding neighbourhood of West Meadowlark has had to look into a residential parking program due to parasitic parking.
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The view out over the STARS helipad, and a couple hospital visitors.
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The television in my dad’s room at the Misericordia last year. Like me, another product of the 80s.

 

Edmonton Votes 2013 – ‘A Regular Contribution’

It’s the voters of course, or the 30% who do vote, who play the king-makers in civic politics. The path to voters in a civic election, free from party politics, is individual name recognition at the ballot. It’s evidenced in the near overwhelming deference given to incumbent civic candidates in Edmonton, and to those challengers whose past professional lives put their names out in the public domain on a regular basis.

Signs, small and large on lawns and public property, Canada Post mailouts, closets and trunks filled with printed materials, pens, pencils, re-usable bags and other swag – These are marketing tools of a campaign that drive recognition of a candidate. They cost thousands to produce and to get into the hands of voters.

Even those who have established name recognition on their side will spend $50,000 or more before October’s election.

The Journal’s Elise Stolte has done some great work (links below) breaking down the numbers from 2010, and some the early outreach efforts to campaigns by Edmonton’s development community.

Cash for campaigns: Winning a seat at City Hall requires lots of dollars from development-friendly donors

The data: Do developers play kingmaker in civic politics?

Fund raising at the civic level isn’t easy, I know, I’ve tried it. Municipal contributions, in large numbers, come from the development industry. Which in Edmonton is well represented by power-houses like the Urban Development Institute and the Edmonton Home Builders Association. As well as large-scale players such as Stantec, Qualico, Rohit and so on.

They build homes, multi-units, business spaces and towers and take a large part of the time and efforts of Council and Civic Adminsitration. From individual zoning bylaws, to land-use plans, visionary planning documents, municipal development plans and so on.

These are groups and industry representatives that have regular access and key stakeholder status with Council and Administration. That often outnumber other groups or community reps in a city boardroom. That are regular, and large dollar contributors to some municipal campaigns, and that can easily tilt a Council race in one direction through campaign contributions.

To candidates out there, I won’t say not to take a contribution if it’s offered. . It takes money to get elected, to advance a good platform, and that’s a personal decision that some individual campaigns and candidates will have to make.

I will say however, that those contributions do nothing to drive public debate or discussion. Nor do they help to create an equal field for each of a Ward’s candidates to put their materials and ideas in the hands of voters.

To voters, I’ll say that it really shouldn’t matter. The fact that a candidate can’t or won’t spend $50,000 or $100,000 isn’t at all a sign of their ability in or inabilities to serve in office. The fact that candidates trip over themselves to blitz the boulevard with signs coming into your neighbourhood, and your mailbox with the glossiest paper when you get home, isn’t terribly healthy for anyone; you, me, democracy or the environment.

To the Province and the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the maximum allowable individual contribution should have been reduced. And the pre-nomination day registration and reporting requirments should have been applied to this election. It’s the 21st century, municipalities could have been ready in time.

To candidates; game on, good luck, and may the best ideas and the candidates willing to implement them, win in October.

The Victor Post Fonds

An accomplished generational talent, lost to us far too soon.  If you have an interest in photography or just want to see some wonderful images captured on film, why not take a trip to the St. Albert Musée Héritage Museum this summer.

The many, many photos of Victor Post

Major acquisition bolsters Musée’s archives

It’s possibly the most substantial and most substantive collection of photographs that has ever been amassed in St. Albert. Now, the Musée Héritage Museum has its hands on it and the public is already starting to see why it’s so important.

It has been 11 years since Victor Post succumbed to his battle with Crohn’s disease, but his legacy lives on. In 2003, there were two very fine retrospectives of his work at the Musée and the Profiles Public Art Gallery, now known as the Art Gallery of St. Albert. The city hasn’t seen anything since then.

That all changed last week. The museum announced on Thursday that the Post family had donated the entire collection of his papers and a substantial volume of his photographs, and his camera collection as well.

Train Rider

I left a comment a few days back on the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Commons blog post “Does Chinatown Actually exist in The Quarters?”.  The Journal’s commenting system doesn’t exactly encourage longer entries, and the limit based on characters not words certainly enforces that.  I started with a longer train of thought and hacked and slashed it down to fit it in.  Anyways, here’s my original, unedited writeup in case somebody finds it to be of interest.

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If you’ve walked down Stony Plain Road in the Jasper Place area, or navigated the commercial strip with a stroller or a wheelchair, you know for sure it’s a “difficult” environment for pedestrians.  Few buildings are set back from narrow sidewaks which are dotted and obstructed by lightstandards and other obstacles.  The business corridor from 170st to 149th and the communities flanking it are the focus of their own revitalization efforts.

The uncertainity and debate following the rejection of the 87th avenue corridor for the West LRT and the subsequent refocus on a northernly route, namely SPR, in ways derailed and chilled those efforts.  Once Council approved Bylaw 15101 establishing the Millwoods-Downtown-Lewis Estates low-floor corridor, the discussion in the westend shifting into how to establish the best possible environment for pedestrians, businesses, residents and revitalization/redevelopment before, during and after construction. 

To that end, about a year and change ago, my Community League (Glenwood) made the decision to push for a bylaw amendment which have split the West LRT between 156st and 149th, with one track taking Stony Plain Road, and the other shifting onto neighboring 100th avenue.

The reasoning was to allow for enhanced public realm, by reducing the demands on SPR’s vehicle corridor, to allow for the possibility of taking space from traffic lanes to widening sidewalks on both sides of the street.  The other issue was that of service to the community.  While understanding the desire by the city to limit the commute time from the distant suburbs to downtown, we were adamant that the route be configured to best serve the established communities it would need to be retrofitted through.  In this regard, we had expressed a strong desire for an additional stop along Stony Plain Road, which was ultimately rejected, primarily on the grounds of property impacts.  It was our hope splitting the route in the area, would allow for an additional stop with limited impacts.

The end result of this brief lobbying was rejection by city administraton, and little discussion at all by City Council.  During this however, I was CC’d on an email by a fellow Community League volunteer in McKernan, who had been extinselvy involved in that communities surface running LRT expansion.  He had proposed using a similar solution in the Chinatown, as a way to mitigate community concerns and local impacts.  That letter called for splitting the line with one on 102 avenue, and the other going a block north onto 102a.

I don’t recall any Council discussion resulting from this, and I don’t know if a compromise solution like this would satisfy local concerns.  I am however, confident saying that the corridor selection process was disjointed, it did suffer from being far too top-down from City Administration, rather than community and commutter up.  I haven’t seen the metrics used by the city used to select 102 avenue, however I have looked at them closely for the westend leg, in particular internal documents acquired through a freedom of information request.  In terms of development potential, the difference in rankings between Stony Plain Road, and 107th avenue were definitely closer than advertised.  In the end though, communties are finding themselfes between a top-down approach to route selection, and a desire to move forward with line quickly, rather than make amendments to it’s course through established neighborhoods and infrastructure.  It’s a difficult situation to be in when you find yourself staring at your leg of the route, and left feeling that it’s harming rather that serving your community as an amenity and a draw for human and financial investment.

Stony Plain Road Streetscape – Journey to Destination

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Over 15,000 folks reside in the four communities (Glenwood, West Jasper Place, Canora, and Britannia-Youngstown) bordering the Stony Plain Road commercial corridor between 149st and 170th Street.  Grant MacEwan’s Arts Campus brings a number of students to the area to spend their day, and even more Edmontonians spend time on foot in the area, while coming and going through the Jasper Place Transit Terminal.

Stony Plain Road however, has obviously remained a vehicular corridor.  A significant arterial route into the downtown, the current streetscape (and it’s mass of auto-oriented signage) is friendly to those passing through at 50km/h, harsh to anyone else.  Businesses have little to no street-front parking and limited stalls on side-streets.  Pedestrians have little to no shelter from traffic, and must navigate narrow sidewalks which are obstructed in numerous locations by light standards, or other obstacles, posing an unacceptable barrier to access for all.

Credit is due to the Stony Plain Road BRZ for it’s efforts thus far on utilizing the corridor for community events such as Storefront Cinema Nights, and long-term projects like the Holistic Urban Market.  Physical rehabilitation of the commercial strip however has largely remained stagnant, notably due to several years of on-going uncertainty during the West LRT debate.

Progress on this front is now going to take a large step forward over the next several years.  two presentations on the upcoming multi-phase streetscape project and it’s timelines have been held in the community over the past month. The presentations and more information are available here.  The first phase will run from 149st to 158st (just encompassing the JP transit centre).  I am disappointed that an opportunity is being missed by not taking the townsquare development, originally conceived in the Jasper Place Revitalization Strategy for the area encompassing the transit terminal, Butler park and east to the corner of 156st and SPR, and incorporating it into phase 1 of this project.  There his however much to like about the work being proposed, in particular;

-Shrinking SPR from 16m curb-to-curb to 14.5m.  The Glenwood Community League banged on this drum two years ago in regards to widening the sidewalks and improving handicap accessibility.  I’m more than pleased to see that this is finally going to happen.
– Closing 152st, on both the north and south sides up until the rear lane, to create a public gathering space.  When it comes to a lack of public spaces, West Jasper Place is long suffering, having lost park space to the creation of Grant MacEwan College, which was never replaced.  This isn’t a replacement for that by any means, but it is a unique way of creating an outdoor amenity for the community.

Stony Plain Road Urban Design Vision

In terms of building community pride in the area, and attracting investment, both financial and emotional, this is a strong beginning, albeit years overdue.

Viewer Discretion Is Strongly Advised

The St. Albert teacher who faced disciplinary action after showing his class a video on workplace harrassment, apparently after not watching enough of it himself to spot the parody or ‘adult situations’, is back in the classroom this week.  Thus bringing the story back into the news….again, for some reason.  In honor of the new heights this story has managed to reach, which have included a permanent shaming for a single mistake (in which no laws were broken, or physical trauma incured), and the flinging of a giant boulder through a glass house (this on top of Wildrose demands for classroom legislation, and I thought they were the ‘small government’ party), I thought perhaps we should take a step back, relax, and watch an interesting piece by George Carlin on the words whose use on television is currently prohibited.  And before I end up dodging the boulder myself, yes, viewer discretion is definitely and strongly advised, enjoy.

Oh the weather outside is….unseasonably warm?

Had this strange dream last night that I got up at like 4:00 am, and went and stood in a huge line for an hour to buy electronics and stuff.  Next year I’m either going to bed earlier, or just staying up until the early morning boxing day fun begins.  Despite all the convenience of online shopping, there’s absolutely no thrill to it at all.  Anyway, what’s the point of this blog post?  Have I given in to blitzy draw of mass consumerism?  Maybe, but I just wanted to say to the folks who drop in from time to time to read what I have to say, I hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and have a happy new year!

 

Cheers,

Jamie Post

Cookies

Kudos to CTV Edmonton for putting up the full video of Steven Duckett, the man tasked with running Alberta’s health system, acting like a child waving a cookie around and in a few reporters faces.

My question is, given that he was  still working on the cookie through the full 2 minutes 14 seconds of the video, how long did it take him to finish it?

How long did it take Stephen Duckett to finish his cookie?

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