Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate this way and Happy Holidays to those who do not. This is a special time of year regardless of religious belief or affiliation, a time when we tend to gather families and friends together and to celebrate all that is good in our lives.

I'd like to extend my hopes to all for a safe and joyous holiday season and wishes for a happy and prosperous 2008.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thanks, Bill

I'm still learning about blogs and what makes them interesting. The person whose blog inspired me to start my own is Bill Given, Alderman for the City of Grande Prairie, so imagine how delighted I was when he added a link on his blog to mine. Thanks very much, Bill. Of course, this set me to figuring out how to add links of interest to MY blog (see the new section under my photo) and Bill's is the first entry. Learning just never stops.

I like to keep an eye on what is going on in other places, especially the cities, for emerging issues, programming ideas, or creative policy solutions that may be applicable to Peace River. Bill's blog gives me lots of food for thought as well as a window into what is happening in our largest Northern Alberta urban neighbour. (Full disclosure: GP is my home town, although I've lived in Peace River longer than GP and the place is unrecognizable from when I left in 1973, when there was a population of 10,000!)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Council Open House: December 14

I should have written this post days ago to give readers some notice--my apologies. This afternoon (Friday) from 3:00 to 6:00 is Council's seasonal open house in the Council Chambers. We're hoping to see many community members drop in to say hello and have some refreshments.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Town Council agendas and background materials

If you're interested in seeing what's on the agenda for Monday's meeting, you can download or just view the agenda, draft minutes (from November 26), and all the reports, background materials and informational items for the week at:{8D18BE5D-3654-43DE-B91A-208C0978DD34}

Click on Agenda Packages (2007). Note that the background information is not maintained beyond the week or so after a meeting because it is replaced with the items for subsequent meetings. If there is anything you want to keep, print or save.

Canada Post's Santa Writing Program and launch of Peace stamp

On Friday I had the pleasure of representing the Town of Peace River at Springfield School, where Canada Post chose to launch one of its new stamps (Peace) and to accept letters to Santa from the students.

Christmas is so much more fun when little ones are involved! We sang some seasonal songs, then I was presented with a lovely frame that includes the three seasonal stamps (Peace, Hope and Joy), all cancelled with the special Peace River cancellation stamp. We'll find a suitable place to hang this at the Town Office. You can view the stamps at:

Once the presentation was over, the children brought up their letters to Santa and got a hug from the Canada Post mascot (whose name unfortunately escapes me) and also a candy cane and pencil. The school and Canada Post did a great job of putting on the launch and opportunity for the kids to mail their Santa letters.

Over 11,000 current and retired Canada Post employees act as Santa's helpers and answer all the letters received at Santa Claus, North Pole, H0H 0H0, Canada, in over 20 languages, including Braille. Last year Santa received over 1 million letters from around the world, and also more than 30,000 emails from children who used the Canada Post website. This has led to a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most Santa letters received and answered. Congratulations and thank you to Canada Post for helping children enjoy this bit of Christmas magic.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Tour of Town of Peace River Facilities

On Monday, Mayor and Town Councillors took a tour of the Town of Peace River facilities. CAO, Kelly Bunn, led the tour, introducing us to staff at the Town Office first, then up to our old water treatment plant, down to the museum, the pool and arena, the wastewater plant past Good Shepherd School, the town shop, the water treatment plant, and then a couple of reservoirs. It was a long day and we even had to skip a few places because of a lack of time, like the NAR building where the Chamber of Commerce operates , and the library, which is closed on Mondays.

We all really appreciated the time everyone took to explain their jobs and facilities, and what a complex variety there is. How different could facilities like a museum be from a wastewater plant? From taxation and utilities billing to water treatment or public works? Or from keeping a a library functioning and interesting to the challenges of the arena and pool? Keeping a town humming requires a huge number of skills and a wide array of professional and trades education backgrounds and we are fortunate to have such a dynamic and committed group of people working for the Town.

There seems to be high morale and a great deal of pride among staff, which is so great to see! Everyone is working hard, probably too hard as most of us in Alberta seem to be, but handling the myriad responsibilities that workers in small towns, regardless of what field they are in, are confronted with in a typical day. There's little room for specialists in small town and rural areas and Town of Peace River staff seem to accept and even thrive in this environment.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

AUMA Conference

The Town of Peace River and every other city, town, village and summer village in Alberta are members of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) ( This association was founded in 1905, the same year that Alberta became a province, to represent the interests of urban municipalities.

This year's conference, held in Calgary, was quite an experience for the rookie Town of Peace River councillors. I don't have official numbers, but heard a rough estimate of around 1300+ in attendance. The huge number of people from smaller places compared with the small numbers from the cities helps me understand why the mayors of Edmonton and Calgary feel outnumbered when resolutions come before the assembly.

Three of the four new councillors (Heinen, Laurin and I) attended a pre-conference session geared towards newcomers. The packed room heard high-level speakers on a variety of topics that will assist us in becoming effective councillors:
  • Municipal law with an overview of the legislation that affects municipalities (primarily the Municipal Government Act, but there are a number of others).
  • Robert's Rules and meeting decorum in general.
  • Two sessions dealing with governance and achieving excellence in municipal governance. Some of what leads to excellence includes having vision and direction, making decisions consistent with Council's aims and goals, letting management achieve these aims, and overseeing to ensure that mandate is achieved. One speaker recommended that we all download the 20 Questions for Directors series of booklets from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA). These are on topics like privacy, risk, management discussion and analysis, and strategy. They were primarily written for the directors of corporations, but can be applicable to municipal officials as well. The booklets are available in PDF format at:
  • Teamwork. It's an important topic, particularly in today's time of needing to consider partnerships and collaboration, but this session was too cursory for my needs.
  • Infrastructure. This is an important topic these days when we speak about sustainable communities as Canada's infrastructure reaches critical stages of decay. A recent report from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) estimated that there is a $123 billion deficit in infrastructure without even accounting for new infrastructure that needs to be built in response to growth (that report can be found at Councillors were encouraged to ask administration six questions about infrastructure: What do we own? What is it worth? What is its condition? What is the deferred maintenance? What is the remaining service life? What do you need to fix first? I also attended another session later in the conference entitled Paved With Good Intentions: Planning for Sustainable Community Infrastructure.
One other session that I attended was on affordable housing, but since it was primarily about the way in which Canmore has tackled the problem using what is called perpetual affordable housing (PAH), it was interesting and there may be applications locally, but I 'd have liked to hear about other kinds of approaches as well.

During the meeting portions of the conference I learned how resolutions come forward and are voted on. I spent hours at the trade fair looking at products and services.

Premier Stelmach attended the conference to receive an award and he gave a short speech. There were a host of provincial Ministers in attendance for a Q&A session and at a luncheon.

The three days left me with pages and pages of notes, handouts and business cards to catalogue and plenty to think about. The learning ahead is tremendous and the conference was a good introduction.