[We sent your questions to all the Election 2013 candidates. We are posting their unedited responses in the order that they’re received. – Ed.]
1. In the context of our City’s growth, how will you support the development of existing communities as opposed to new neighbourhoods?
Sprawl is happening in the region, and it continues to undercut both the demand for Edmonton’s new neighbourhoods and, to a lesser extent, the demand for infill. Standards in the region must rise to at least meet the density targets called for in the Capital Region Growth Plan. This is a regional question, not just an Edmonton one. Meanwhile, attached housing is outselling detached housing in our newer neighbourhoods, and this is being driven by affordability (many families can no longer afford side yards). This trend is being accommodated in the new neighbourhoods, but not so much in established areas. For infill to scale up as a competitive alternative our zoning and planning needs to allow for more attached and narrow-lot housing in established areas. Uncertainty about the medium-term prospects for schools in mature areas also, and the City needs to work with the school boards to get greater clarity on which schools could serve as catalysts for supporting infill development. The City must continue its investment in the Neithbourhood Renewal program as renewal of roads, pipes and sidewalks in deteriorated areas creates a better environment for investment in infill. The conversation does not need to pit one type of neighbourhood against another, but instead recognize efficient use of infrastructure makes for a more livable City, no matter where in it you live.
2. How will you support and promote independent locally-owned businesses in Edmonton?
I believe thriving locally owned businesses are key to placemaking, and a sense of unique vibrancy in any great city. Edmontonians are proud of their local success stories. I want to facilitate more of these stories by generally staying out of their way. The City has many steps when it comes to licensing and building a business. Though these regulations are usually necessary to assess things like community impact, there is no reason the process should be confusing or lengthy. The City has been responsive on some fronts; for example, after I called attention to the need for reforms, we’ve seen an influx of food trucks and more sidewalk patios this year as restrictions eased. I just wrote about the need to support entrepreneurs and small business growth here: www.doniveson.ca/entrepreneur
I want businesses to have every opportunity to thrive. Strong businesses mean more jobs, better choices for consumers, and make Edmonton an appealing place for people to visit and stay. The municipal government should help facilitate, not slow down, their success.
3. How will you support local food and urban agriculture in Edmonton?
I believe local urban agriculture initiatives are strong ways to foster community, help food security and make good use of land.
Given what we learned during the Horse Hill Area Structure Plan debate, it is difficult to preserve larger-scale agricultural lands within the city because of the cost of land under influence of development pressure. But when there are owners willing to continue agricultural operations, we need to be more supportive of the long term sustainability of those businesses.
I do believe a stronger local food economy can be built with a regional approach. It would be worth looking at a business case for building a food hub in the region with one or more of our county neighbours. Land outside of the city could be acquired as an agricultural reserve for a reasonable cost, and a trust or social enterprise could build educational facilities, greenhouses, or even a specialized residential area to promote understanding of food sources.
At the neighbourhood level, front and back yard gardens are popping up all over town. There is real demand for urban hen keeping, and I do believe the City should conduct a small pilot to work out any issues with urban hens in 2014.
4. How will you address Indigenous Edmontonians’ history and needs?
Edmonton’s First Nations and Aboriginal populations connect us to our City and region’s past. And these groups will be large part of building our City for the future. The first thing I want to do is make a demonstrated commitment to including them. If I am elected, the first thing I will do upon swearing in is acknowledge that our city stands on Treaty Six lands, and that this is a special gathering place with thousands of years of human history.
Sometimes the city views Indigenous groups as merely another set of stakeholders, rather than a significant source of history and wisdom. We need to acknowledge and appreciate both more richly. Projects like the proposed Indigenous Peoples’ Experience at Fort Edmonton reflect and respect Indigenous people’s connection to these land builds an inclusive and engaging city for all.
I also have supported the work to re-imagine the old Fox Farm in Whitemud Ravine as ‘Kihchi Askiy’ – a sacred place for Indigenous peoples to gather and perform ceremonies and observe rituals within the city limits [http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/Open_House_Handout_June3_2009.pdf]But there remains serious work to be done to eliminate the racism that many Indigenous people all too often face in our City. As Mayor I will set a firm tone that racism and discrimination is unacceptable in our City.
5. How do you envision the public transit system evolution?
Related to my answer about housing, I would like to see our public transit evolve as an option more Edmontonians feel fits with their lifestyle. This means more logical and direct bus routes, varied payment options (such as Smart Fare [http://doniveson.ca/2012/11/01/intelligent-transit-fares-for-ets-and-the-region/]), and completion of our light rail transit network. These changes would bring more users and reduced wait times. Transit should be a viable option no matter where you choose to live.
Southeast Edmonton has waited a long time, too long, for an LRT connection. Expansion of the network is a high priority for many Edmontonians, and is also a high priority for me. A citywide system is integral to our vision for a modern city. Under my leadership as Chair of the Capital Region Board’s Regional Transit Committee, the region has unanimously adopted a 30 year Transit Service Plan [http://capitalregionboard.ab.ca/-/reports/30yeartransitserviceplan-approved-sept8-2011.pdf] demonstrating that transit is not only important to us, but to our regional neighbours. Calgary has a similar 30-year vision, and so leveraging the collective voice of the capital region along with Calgary will be our best strategy to get the funding required from other orders of government to get these projects moving.
More travel options are crucial to relieving traffic congestion. Options mean a healthier city, cleaner air, and financial savings for households. Ensuring our LRT reaches its potential, with funding that’s fair to Edmontonians, will be a top priority for me as mayor.
6. What will you do to better engage post-secondary research / students / faculty with the rest of the community?
Edmonton’s postsecondary education sector is one of the City’s top strengths. It’s an underemphasized competitive advantage in our ability to compete for talent and investment. Building a globally competitive city begins with selling its schools. Retaining the world’s best after they are done school requires a sense of belonging in the community, and I think we can do better.
The City’s Next Gen committee just released an eight-point strategy on youth and next gen engagement in civic and communtiy affairs [http://www.edmontonnextgen.ca/2013/09/nextgen-announces-engagement-strategy-launch/] which I helped to create. Many of the recommendations apply to students and educational institutions.
Increasing communication between the City and these institutions creates opportunities for internships and job placement. There are dozens of great companies and organizations in all fields – engineering, sciences, fine arts, to name a few – that could benefit from the input of students and the chance to develop new contributors. Creating welcoming opportunities to showcase talent in the wider community builds relationships and a community outside the realm of academics.
Personally, I’ve built bridges between post-secondary institutions and local governments before: I helped negotiate the original U-Pass deal in the region back in 2006/07. I’ve worked with the University of Alberta in particular as a member of the Presidents’ Advisory Committee, as one of the drivers behind the inception of the Community Planning program, and as a link between the Alberta Innovates Centre for Machine Learning and the City. I also periodically guest lecture at MacEwan and U of A. I would continue to work in this spirit with our post-secondary institutions as Mayor.
7. How can our readers learn more about your platform, contact you with questions or concerns, or get involved in your campaign?
Readers can go to doniveson.ca to find out about my platform, ask questions, or to get involved. You can also find my blog on the site which I’ve kept active since my election in 2007. My thinking on a number of issues is outlined there.
You can contact the campaign through mail at
Elect Don Iveson
10301 109 Street
Edmonton, AB T5J 1N4
(This is the mailing address only)
Or by phone, 780-340-3413. Feel free as well to drop by the office at 10172-111 street.
Readers can also follow the campaign’s progress at on Facebook [facebook.com/DonIvesonForMayor], via Twitter by following me @doniveson [https://twitter.com/doniveson].
I also update my Instagram account, doniveson [http://instagram.com/doniveson] trying to capture how I see our unique and vibrant city.