Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays

As we near the holidays, it's the time when we start to turn our thoughts towards family time and relaxation.

Peace River Town Council and staff have had an incredible 2008 with many changes and a great deal of activity. It's important that we take a break and reflect.

The Town has many exciting initiatives underway that will be completed or see substantial progress during 2009--the Community Visioning process, Business Vitality Initiative, regional cooperation discussions, and the Municipal Sustainability Plan project to name just a few. And with the recent announcement about increased federal funding for infrastructure, we may be able to address some outstanding needs.

So despite continuing worries about the global and national economy, I have big hopes for a productive and progressive 2009 for the Town and the region.




Watching the River

Peace River has received its annual river freeze-up advisory. It's a little earlier than last year due to the unseasonably cold weather.

The ice front is advancing quite quickly and could be within the Town limits as early as this weekend, so Town staff are on river watch and preparations are being made for freeze-up.

When the river freezes, the level goes up (think about what happens when you put ice cubes in a glass of water), so this is a time when we all watch things carefully. What we hope for is that the cold weather continues long enough for the ice cover to be well-established and that we don't get a rapid warm snap until the ice front is well past the Town. With those conditions, the problems associated with a second ice consolidation are less.

River observations are available on the Alberta Environment website. When you click on the map link and hover the mouse over each star, you'll see photos of the river at that location from the last flight (which was on December 18th). Interesting stuff for river watchers.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Complete Streets Workshop in Peace River

The Town of Peace River is co-sponsoring a free workshop on December 4 (Thursday) with Transport Canada and the Sustainable Alberta Association. Rebecca O'Brien, the Sustainable Alberta Association Program Director is the presenter.

We'll look at ways to evaluate and improve our sustainable transportation environment (walking, cycling and transit) and the day will include a short "walk-about."

Anyone who is interested in health, environmental and planning issues is encouraged to attend.

I'm attending and hope to see a large number of other participants there. What I'm particularly interested in learning about is how we can adapt principles that have been developed for large urban centres to a small town with the kind of geographic challenges that Peace River walkers and cyclers encounter.

For more information or to register, go to the Town of Peace River website.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Councillor Activities October-November

For my own records as well as anyone wondering what Town Council members do, here's a summary of some of my activities over the past two months:


Aboriginal Interagency Committee: Regular monthly meetings.

Peace River Municipal Library Board: Regular monthly meetings. As well, board members canvassed for the Rotary Radio Auction, which is a major library fundraiser, and worked the phones during the auction. I'd never done that before and it was quite an experience! Many thanks to everyone who helped to make the event a success.

Town of Peace River Health & Safety Committee: Regular monthly meeting.

Municipal Planning Commission: Regular twice-monthly meetings. We also have a half day of training in the coming week, provided by a planner from the Mackenzie Municipal Planning Agency (MMSA).

East Peace Regional Landfill Authority: I'm an alternate and attended my first meeting in November.

Other activities:

Town of Peace River/Northern Sunrise County: Councils and CAOs attended a two-day session with facilitator Gord McIntosh where we identified issues and areas for potential collaboration. We have a list of items that we're exploring and moving ahead on, which is a very exciting follow-up to the signing of the protocol agreement in the summer.

Using Rural Connections to Support Alberta's Rural Development Strategy Virtual Conference: I worked with Communities Without Boundaries and Peace Country Community Futures to bring this conference to Peace River. It was a very successful day with over 20 sites around the province and over 200 participants. Peace River had the best-attended venue north of Edmonton. (There are a couple of other blog entries about this event, with links to the sessions.)

Metis Nation of Alberta Zone 6 Dinner: Deputy Mayor Berry Heinen brought greetings to the AGM in the morning and then he and I attended the evening dinner, with our spouses, on behalf of the Town of Peace River.

Lower West Peace Public Session: Engineer Paul Machibroda presented the results of his research to the residents, media, and Town staff and councillors at this session. BC Hydro and Alberta government staff were also present and there was a good discussion about the proposed next steps to study how to alleviate the seepage problems. Four de-watering wells will be installed by January 2009, with more likely installed later in the year once there is a better understanding of water dynamics, the optimal placement of the wells, etc. With a full complement of wells in place, it will be easier to see whether further measures need to be implemented. BC Hydro is also continuing to work with affected residents to ensure they have proper sump pumps in place before winter freeze-up and to find other ways to assist. We are all hoping that there will be no secondary ice consolidation near the Town this winter, because that appears to be the biggest determinant of whether there will be the seepage that causes so much disruption for some families and worry for many other Lower West Peace residents.

CMHC Affordable Housing Web Forum: These events are a great opportunity to hear from experts on a variety of issues without leaving home. This one, with Affordable Housing Consultant and former Whistler Municipal Councillor, Tim Wake, was particularly pertinent to Peace River's situation so I was glad I could attend. Information about upcoming events.

Town of Peace River Staff Luncheon: Peace River has a great group of enthusiastic and committed staff and it was a pleasure to join them to hear CAO Norma MacQuarrie describe the variety of activities in which the Town is currently engaged (there's a lot going on!).

Community Citizenship Potluck: I was honoured to bring greetings from Mayor & Council. This is an event coordinated by the Peace Literacy Association and the Peace Association for Lifelong Learning (PAL). There were new Peace River residents from at least 10 different countries (I can remember speaking with people from Poland, Brazil, Korea, China, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Colombia, Finland, and Belize). Peace Literacy provides tutors, among other types of assistance, for English as a Second Language (ESL) and literacy education. A number of these tutors attended the dinner as well other community members who are interested in meeting newcomers. The food was sensational and we had fun with a ice-breaker activity that helped us to get to know each other a little more.

Alternative Energy Trade Fair: This event was very successful, especially for a first time effort. There were a variety of vendors at the Trade Fair who patiently explained geothermal, solar, wind, insulation and other energy-efficient technologies, and there were also excellent education sessions provided. I went on a tour of a household that uses solar tubes to generate hot water for heating. In conjunction with the event, there was a sold-out 100-Mile Dinner where I was pleased to bring greetings from Mayor & Council. Both the fair and the dinner served to highlight the importance of paying attention to the issues of peak oil and climate change and how these may impact our communities. The more we work to establish or maintain local food and energy security, the better able we'll be able to cope with whatever the future brings.

Peace River Regional Women's Shelter Festival of Trees: Mayor Callioux regularly attends the Gala for the Festival but was out of town this year, so I was pleased to attend in her place. It was a fun evening with a dinner, entertainment by a local group called Windsong, and live and silent auctions of fabulous trees and other items. What a creative community we have and it is wonderful to see the community support for this annual event.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Watching History

I'm not sure I ever thought I'd live long enough to see an African-American President and First Lady, but it has happened! And with a huge voter turnout--Canadians should look on that with envy.

Collaboration and figuring out how to work together to achieve big goals is so important to me and is how I try to approach municipal public life. Watching the US campaign has given me high hopes that an Obama presidency will approach the huge social and economic problems in the US and around the world from that perspective.

I was also encouraged by John McCain's gracious concession speech and his call for all Americans to work together. We can't expect the extreme partisanship that is characteristic of US politics to disappear overnight, but I anticipate seeing a far different approach to internal and international US relations than we've seen for far too long.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Virtual Conference: A Big Success

Do you ever get tired of travelling long distances to attend meetings or conferences or to see specialists or clients? I know I do!

On Halloween, over 200 people at more than 20 videoconferencing sites around Alberta attended an all-day conference without having to go far from home. Wow, we learned so much about the potential for broadband and videoconferencing in rural areas as well as about the continuing challenges.

The day was called Using Rural Connections to Support Alberta's Rural Development Strategy, hosted by Communities without Boundaries (CwoB), an organization dedicated to supporting and developing "local coalitions of community champions and technology providers to promote broadband usage."

Here in Peace River, we had 14 people gathered at the Community Futures Peace Country office, the largest gathering north of Edmonton, I'm proud to say.

The day was ably hosted by the Town of Three Hills Mayor Kevin Edwards, who has been a leader in the Virtual Learning & Business Centre (VLBC) CLICSite (Collaboration, Learning, Innovation Community) project. This is a great example of collaboration and broadband usage in a rural area.

We heard speakers on a wide variety of topics, and while I expected to be interested in the sessions on libraries, telehealth and education, I hadn't expected to be engaged in something like the presentation by Dr. Sandra Honour on the Alberta Livestock & Meat Strategy, but I was! (This link is to a video from FarmTV; Dr. Honour's PowerPoint presentation along with the others is available on the CwoB website. Podcasts will also be available in the coming weeks.)

The day was made up of short panel presentations hosted by knowledgeable people who outlined the opportunities and challenges or described their own use of broadband. One of the hosts was in Hawaii, which just served to further highlight the versatility of videoconferencing. We heard excellent presentations in the following five areas:

  • Education (host: Cathy King)
  • Health Care (host: Brenda Poole)
  • Rural Economic Activity (host: Darcy Ferguson)
  • Rural Quality of Life (Host: Jann Beeston)
  • First mile/Last Mile (Host: Craig Montgomerie)

I suspect others felt as I did that we'd like to hear more from a number of these speakers at future sessions.

Have a look at the PowerPoint presentations and keep an eye out for the podcasts. Consider ways that broadband and greater use of videoconferencing could make a difference to your work, leisure, health, or quality of life and stay tuned for future learning opportunities through CwoB.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Community Vision/BVI/MSP

Did the acronyms in the title intrigue you? Peace River has a lot going on and we're hoping that Peace River and area residents will become active in each of them!

Here's one: The Business Vitality Initiative (BVI) "measures the business-friendliness of your community, compares the results to other communities, helps you come up with strategies for improvement and launches your community into action" (CIEL website).

In July, I attended the Rural Matters! conference in Edmonton, sponsored by the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts & Counties (AAMDC). Mayor Callioux and Councillor Laurin also attended and we all learned much from the sessions we attended.

It was at one called "Tools to Build Entrepreneurial and Vital Communities" with Mike Stolte of CIEL (Centre for Innovative & Entrepreneurial Leadership) that I heard about the possibility of a pilot project in Alberta. I let Mike know that Peace River might be interested and would be an ideal community.

Now Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development has partnered with CIEL to deliver a pilot project for one of CIEL's tools, the BVI, in four rural Alberta communities and Peace River is one of them! January-February is roughly the time for this initiative. Public input is an important feature of this initiative.

Here's another: Municipal Sustainability Planning MSP. Peace River is one of a number of Alberta communities that will receive support from the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) for this planning, which will involve public input.

And another: Planning is underway for our community visioning process. Mark your calendar: on December 9, there will be two sessions available for Peace River and area residents to participate. More details to follow so keep an eye on the Town's website.

As we move ahead with each of these initiatives, they will build on each other and by June, we should have a comprehensive and exciting vision along with action plans to carry us forward.

Stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks and months. These are exciting opportunities for residents to help to identify a vision and set the course for the future.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day: Poverty in Peace River?


October 15 is Blog Action Day and the topic for 2008 is poverty. Some people might wonder whether poverty actually exists in Peace River. There are, of course, a few street people who are the more visible face of poverty, but people working with families see another side and understand that yes, we do have poverty and we have far too many children growing up in poverty.

What IS poverty anyway? Vibrant Calgary has defined it as “the condition of a human being who does not have sufficient economic and other resources to live with the dignity, choices and power which support full participation in society.”

And why is full participation in society important? We all need to feel that we belong, and unfortunately, when a person is poor, that sense of belonging may be harder to achieve. Most seriously, for disaffected youth, joining a gang may seem like a good way to gain a sense of belonging.

The recent spate of violence in Peace River is largely gang-related, according to the RCMP. Our community needs to find ways to address the problem by looking beyond criminal activity to the root causes, and one of those is poverty.

When I attended the Tamarack Collaborating Communities Institute in Kitchener in September, I was hugely impressed with what a number of communities are doing to reduce poverty. For example, as I've written in a previous article, in Hamilton, where in 2005 20% of the population lived in poverty, the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction was convened and has mobilized the whole city to work on poverty reduction.

Could Peace River do something similar on a much smaller scale? I once belonged to the Poverty Action Committee in Peace River, but we needed a much larger body of people, including businesses, if we were going to make much difference. That group runs the Peace River Soup Kitchen, which is important, but clearly only one piece of the whole.

When the Town does its community visioning activities (stay tuned for details), I hope that residents will participate fully and will bring their best thinking and creativity to the complex issues, like poverty, that are facing us.

How do we ensure that everyone feels a part of the community? How do we help people move beyond poverty into good jobs? How we do ensure that people have safe and affordable housing in which to live and raise their families? How do we accommodate all ages and stages of life? Lots of questions--let's see if we can work together to find solutions.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Federal Election: Get Out and Vote!

Polls are open today from 7:30 AM to 7:30 PM so if you didn't vote during the advance poll, be sure to get out today.

Many people will have received a card in the mail sometime ago with their polling station information (mine is the Senior's Drop-in).

The Elections Canada website is very busy this morning, but you can try it.

The local Elections Canada office is at 9509-100 Avenue, Peace River. The phone number is 1-866-497-8892.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Peace River Museum Book Launch: October 15

The Peace River Museum, Archives & Mackenzie Centre is hosting a book launch of The Peace: A history in photographs by Don Pettit on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 from 7:00 to 8:30.

There will be a book signing, DVD presentation (The Peace: A Vision so Strong), and refreshments.

For more details, visit the museum's website.

I hope to see a big crowd at there!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Join Me at Virtual Conference on October 31st

On October 31, Peace River's Community Futures office is one of 20 sites around the province that is hosting an innovative virtual conference entitled Using Rural Connections to Support Alberta’s Rural Development Strategy.

The event is being organized by Communities without Boundaries, an organization devoted to supporting and developing local coalitions of community champions and technology providers to promote broadband usage.

At each site, participants will gather to watch and listen to the conference speakers and also have an opportunity to connect with each other.

Speakers will explain how they are using broadband Internet and the Alberta SuperNet to tackle everyday issues in the areas of education, health, economic development and rural quality of life. The closing session will explore the challenges and opportunities of developing First/Last Mile Connectivity.

Register for the event at the link above. You need to first register for the site and then register for the event venue.

The day starts at 8:30 and finishes at 3:30, with lunch and refreshments provided (that's why you need to register).

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Peace River Hosting Northwest Corridor Development Corporation (NCDC) Conference: "Take Ten in the Corridor"

There are lots of visitors to Peace River this week with delegates to the NCDC "Take Ten in the Corridor” Conference and Annual General Meeting today until Thursday at the Belle Petroleum Centre. Welcome to them all!

The news release about the event noted that the speaker line-up represents "a wealth of talent and knowledge." Further, Don Zurowski, Chair of the NCDC Board said that “They’ll cover a good cross section of issues affecting transportation, trade and tourism in the Corridor, adding that “All this is in keeping with our mission of advancing what’s needed to enhance and sustain the economy and trade potential of Canada’s Northwest Corridor.”

Peace River Deputy Mayor Berry Heinen sits on the NCDC board and will be addressing the conference tomorrow morning at the breakfast session. Northern Sunrise County Councillor Carolyn Kolebaba also represents this region on the NCDC board.

For more information on NCDC, visit the website.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

AUMA Convention

Peace River Mayor, Council and CAO were in Edmonton last week, attending the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) annual convention.

Premier Stelmach addressed the convention as did the new president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), Jean Perrault. We heard from Municipal Affairs Minister Ray Danyluk and he also presented Municipal Excellence Awards (congratulations to all those recipients and runners-up).

Council was able to meet with provincial officials on issues specific to the Town and during open sessions with Alberta Ministers to bring up issues such as ambulance transition. This transition is particularly worrisome for municipalities like Peace River that have integrated fire and ambulance, but other communities want to ensure a smooth transition without degradation of service so there was a great deal of discussion about this during the week.

Other highlights:


While this may not sound like a riveting way to spend a day (and there were moments, especially when people asked irrelevant questions ...), this all-day session provided important information for anyone working or interested in the local level of government. (And I was pleased to see how much I actually remembered from social studies and political science classes.)

Can We Be Dissolved? I asked the presenter whether the province could dissolve municipalities the way it recently dealt with health region boards. The answer was "absolutely." Responsibility for the municipal level of government was given to the provinces by the Constitution Act of 1867 (formerly known as the British North America Act) and we are therefore "creatures of the province." (Other responsibilities given to the provinces were natural resources and education and there was lively discussion about the boundaries of those responsibilities.)

We also had discussions about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) legislation and how these impact on local government.


It might surprise some Peace River residents who feel that their local government is not transparent (or as transparent as they would like), but compared with how the provincial and federal governments operate, we heard repeatedly that we are indeed the most accessible and the most transparent because under the provisions of the Municipal Government Act (MGA), we are required to conduct the majority of our business in public. There is always room for improvement, of course, and the Town is working on new ways to keep residents informed about programs as well as the work of Council.


Municipal Affairs has in the past year or so dealt with over 60 Alberta municipalities that are struggling to be sustainable, and the issues aren't always just financial. Some are having great difficulty recruiting and retaining staff or even forming a council. The times call for some creativity and flexibility.

In the session on governance and collaboration with Dr. Roger Gibbins of the Canada West Foundation and Dr. Matthew McKinney from the University of Montana's Public Policy Research Institute, we were reminded that Minister Danyluk has made it clear to municipalities that if we don't get regional issues sorted out on our own, he'll do it for us.

Dr. McKinney described what he has learned about working across boundaries, and how "homegrown" solutions (rather than those imposed on a region) are generally the most successful.

When Dr. Gibbins was asked about how our municipalities can work with others who seem content with the status quo, he reflected on those 60 communities that are struggling even in these good times and how we need to be prepared to move ahead even in tough times. He asked us whether we want to be the architect of change or just let it happen to us? What an important question that is! Change happens and if we want it to work for us, we need to take an active role, no matter how difficult it may be.

It was an excellent 4 days of learning and networking. The slides from all the presentations will be available in a few weeks on the AUMA website, so check them out if you're interested in learning more.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Tamarack & Six Thinking Hats

No, I didn't fall off the face of the earth! After just two blog entries about the fabulous Tamarack Communities Collaborating Institute, it seemed like every moment was taken up and there was little time for writing. Sleep became more important.

It was a great week in Kitchener and I'm so grateful that I was able to attend. There were so many connections made with people who are working for change in their communities.

Learning about the work that Hamilton's Roundtable on Poverty Reduction is doing was a particularly inspiring, but there were so many community movers and shakers from a wide variety of organizations, including United Way and community foundations, a credit union, immigrant organizations, Vibrant Communities (including Vibrant Edmonton and Vibrant Calgary), and many more.

Of the 80 participants, I think I was the only elected official, but the new executive director of Vibrant Edmonton is a former City of Edmonton Councillor, so we had lots to talk about.

A number of Albertans met at the end of the Institute to figure out how we can keep the momentum going in our province for creating change through community collaboration. More on that as we have a chance to process all we learned and to get back in touch with each other.

Following the week in Kitchener, I travelled to Ottawa for a 2-day workshop on Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats tool. De Bono coined the concept of "lateral thinking" and has written dozens of books on thinking and decision-making. The workshop was an excellent opportunity to build on things I learned at Tamarack;

and the idea of parallel thinking using the six hats, along with the creativity activities, will be of much use in many areas of my professional, public, and personal life.

Next week, Mayor and Council are in Edmonton attending the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) convention. If I get a chance, I'll post updates.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Communities Collaborating Institute Day 2

The morning started at 8:00 with a session on community planning processes and tools where Tamarack coach Garry Loewen gave us some excellent information and tools for future work.

This was followed by a dynamic presentation by Brenda Zimmerman on "community, complexity and collaboration." Brenda teaches at the Schulich School of Business and is the founding Director of York’s Health Industry Management Program. As well, she is one of the co-authors of Getting to Maybe: How the world is changed.

The evaluation workshop I attended in Calgary in June featured the other two co-authors, so I feel very fortunate to now have heard each of them speak. They have tremendous messages for practitioners, funders, and evaluators, on how we need to change how we approach complex problems like poverty, homelessness, etc. Read more on the link above.

In the afternoon, I attended a second session by Garry on "comprehensive strategies for renewing communities," which again yielded good information and some useful aids. Garry brings a wealth of community experience and practical help for community development work.

I was sorry to miss the concurrent session by Mark Cabaj on "capturing and making sense of collaborative outcomes," but managed to get the handouts and will confer with others who attended. Mark lives in Edmonton so I might have the opportunity to hear him another time. And as an evaluator, I have worked on this issue of how to work with complexity and uncertainty and to surface and document the really interesting parts of a project while attending to measuring the outcomes it was supposed to attain. This all has application to the work done by municipalities when they develop or participate in collaborative efforts.

The days are long but the sessions and conversation are highly stimulating. With these long days packed with so much learning from the sessions and from other participants, it reminds me of the modules I attended during two years as a SEARCH participant--exhausting but invigorating.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Communities Collaborating Institute Day 1

I'm in Kitchener, Ontario, attending the Tamarack Communities Collaborating institute. Last night I had dinner with a group from Alberta--Calgary United Way and City of Calgary--and one woman from Grand Forks, BC. Interestingly, one of the people at the table was not only familiar with Peace River, but was born and raised there.

We had a long day of getting to know each other (there are nearly 80 of us from across Canada and a contingent from New Zealand), hearing about what we'll be doing over the week, forming our learning "pods," and listening to some excellent presentations, including one by Sherri Torjman of the Caledon Institute of Social Policy.

Sherri spoke about her new book, Shared Space: The Communities Agenda and discussed the framework from which she looks at the very complex work that needs to be done in communities to improve the lives of people. I read the book prior to coming to Kitchener, but it was wonderful having a chance to hear the author, an inspiring speaker as well as writer, talk about those ideas and to draw on her vast knowledge of the exciting collaborative activities that are happening around the country and the world.

After dinner with my learning pod at a Vietnamese restaurant, we met with other participants for coffee and dessert at a social enterprise called the Queen Street Commons, a cafe and kitchen that is an extension of the Working Centre's Urban Agriculture Program (which "aims to reconnect city folks with the local food system").

When we returned to the hotel, there was a huge tour bus sitting outside with a police car, lights ablaze, and inside, lots of activity and quite a buzz. It appears that the Prime Minister and his campaign team are sharing our hotel tonight.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Virtual Learning Opportunities

Even those of us in rural and remote areas can get connected. There are two opportunities coming up that readers might be interested in.

Community Capacity Building in Small Rural Alberta Communities

Wednesday, September 17, 8:30-12:30

Where: Community Futures office, Peace River
9816-98 Avenue (780-624-1161)

The workshop is presented by the Rural Team Alberta (RTAB), which is a a network of federal, provincial and non-government agencies. The team meets throughout the year to share information and ideas on rural opportunities and issues.

The morning looks like this:

  • After registration and introductions, there are presentations by the mayors of three small communities (Village of Edgerton, Town of Swan Hills, and Town of Foremost).
  • After a coffee break, there is a session called "The importance and advantages of Community Capacity Building" by Sharon Matthias and Kirby Wright.
  • Following that, there is a facilitated, multiple-site discussion on best practices for delivering services and enhancing community capacity in small communities across Alberta.


Using Rural Connections to Support Alberta's Rural Development Strategy

This all-day virtual conference is on October 31, again at the Community Futures office. It looks like there will be sessions of interest to many of us living in the north, whether we're in an area underserved by broadband or not. Check out the program and see if there's anything of interest.

You'll need to register at the Communities Without Boundaries website.

CwB Advert

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Alternate Sites for Housing in Peace River

The open house sessions held by the Town and the results of the online survey provided great feedback on the proposed sites for the affordable housing project and also resulted in many suggestions for alternative sites--ones that wouldn't involve the project either being in a commercial area behind a bar, or losing the BMX track.

Unfortunately, the Town owns little land, and other than one suggestion for using the picnic area of the Kinsmen Funland Park (which IS town-owned), all other sites suggested are held privately, and most are not ready for development in the near future.

Locations on the West Hill were suggested with good reasons offered (close to employment, NAIT, the hospital, etc.), but that is all privately owned land.

The old hospital and old Forestry sites were mentioned quite often. These are also privately owned, and if you've walked by the old hospital site recently, you'll realize that it will not be ready for housing or any kind of development for quite some time.

The land beside the Belle Petroleum Centre as well as the former propane sales site across the street and the land in front of the Town shop were all mentioned as possibilities. It would be wonderful to see these empty lots with something on them, but they are "brownfields," which means they are contaminated and require considerable rehabilitation before development is possible. The owners of these lots would need to undertake that rehabilitation, which is the process that we've seen recently during the construction of the new roundabout (the lot across from Boston Pizza was once a gas station), and also at the site of Danberger's store beside the Town office.

But it's great to see the interest in these empty lots--I share that interest and am hopeful that over the coming years there will be programs to help companies and municipalities get this type of land back into use.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Affordable Housing Project: Land Donation Approved

What an exciting Council meeting last night--we passed a motion to donate a piece of Town-owned land towards an affordable housing project. The proposal is being spearheaded by the North Peace Housing Foundation and the Town of Peace River and the application to the province for funding will now be submitted for the September 19 deadline.

In the spring of 2007, a regional housing coalition (called the North Peace Housing Coalition) was formed to bring attention and action to the dire housing situation that many Peace River and regional residents experience. This group has been an important driver for the project.

It was a sub-committee of the coalition (Tanya Bell from the Town, Richard Walisser from the Foundation, and myself) that did the developmental work on the proposal.

This Peace River project is just that much more feasible because land does not have to be purchased. Now the money received by the Town from the province for affordable housing (about $430,000) can go towards construction and will help keep it affordable.

There's a downside to the land donation, however, as there often is with big decisions. There were few choices because the Town owns so little land. If the project receives funding and goes ahead, we'll lose our BMX track.

The track is not well used and the property is an R3 district, which means high-density housing can be constructed. So despite the loss of a recreation area, it seemed like the best of very few options. (I'm going to do a separate blog entry in the next few days about the ideas for other locations for the project that residents brought forward during the consultation.)

Many thanks to all the people who took the time to come out to the open house sessions and to fill out the online survey (123 of you; 115 finishing the whole thing). The discussions and survey feedback were very valuable to our committee and to Council.

If we'd had more time (the project really just started to coalesce over the summer), we could have provided more notice and print copies of the survey for residents who aren't comfortable with computers. Despite the short notice, though, we got an excellent response from a fairly wide variety of people, including business owners/managers (perhaps because the other proposed location was downtown), seniors, and people living on low income or who once lived on low income.

The application for funding will now go into the province. Fingers crossed it is viewed favourably and there will be a sod turning in the spring!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Update on Affordable Housing Open House & Survey

Yesterday the Town and North Peace Housing Foundation held two open house sessions on the housing proposal that will go to the province later in September and the two possible Town-owned locations for Council to consider on Monday.

There were about 25 people in Council Chambers at noon to review the information, to talk to those of us in attendance who have been working on this project, and to complete an online survey. In the evening, there were around 10 more and as of this morning, 35 surveys have been completed.

The survey is open till Monday at noon, so I encourage anyone with an interest in housing in Peace River and this project in particular to read the background materials on the Town's website and then to add your voice.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Affordable Housing Project Open House Today (September 4)

The Town and North Peace Housing Foundation are holding two open house sessions today so residents can discuss the proposal that Town Council donate a piece of land to support the funding application going into the province later this month.

Details about the time and place for the open house sessions and background information on the housing project, proposed sites, and a link to a survey are on the Town of Peace River's website.

We're hoping for a good turnout and lots of responses to the survey, which will stay open until Monday at noon. The item is on Monday night's Council agenda.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

New Historic Mackenzie Highway Park & Tom Baldwin Arboretum

Last week I attended the grand opening of the new park and arboretum in Grimshaw. What a beautiful space, and as those trees grow and are added to, it's really going to be spectacular.

Congratulations to all those involved (and it was a long list read by Mayor Brian Allen) in seeing this park and the memorial to Tom Baldwin to fruition. 

Photo left: Grimshaw Mayor Brian Allen

Photo right: Jeanne Kalyn, Peace River Deputy Mayor Berry Heinen, Mayor Brian Allen, and RCMP officers.

The memorial to Tom Baldwin is behind, waiting to be unveiled. Note the variety of trees in the arboretum. The park also features a cat train that was used on the Mackenzie Highway in the old days before pavement.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Peace Country Health Community Newsletters

Peace Country Health produces community newsletters for each of the communities or areas within the boundaries of the region. You can access the August issue for Peace River as well as past issues and newsletters from other communities at this link: PCH Community newsletters

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Art of the Peace

Did you know that a local artist and writer, Wendy Stefansson, is the editor of a beautiful magazine called Art of the Peace? This is a publication of the Art of the Peace Visual Arts Association, with financial assistance from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the City of Grande Prairie Arts Development Fund.

Art of the Peace is available in Peace River at Frameworks (9903-100th Ave.) and Claire's Custom Framing (10002-100 St.), in many locations in Grande Prairie and around the Peace Country, as well as in PDF format.

Inside there is a wealth of fascinating information about artists and art connected with the Peace Country. The "Exhibitions & Opportunities" section highlights the variety of events that are available all around the whole Peace Country--South and North and into BC.

The Spring/Summer edition includes an Artist & Gallery Directory that is a great guide to have on hand to help plan outings around the Peace.

What a wealth of talent resides in the Peace Country--check out Art of the Peace--maybe you'll find a local artist that intrigues you enough to consider a purchase.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Online Survey: What will you need as a senior?

On July 14, 2008, the provincial government issued a news release where "Albertans are invited to complete an online survey to share their thoughts on what support they anticipate they will need when they become seniors and how these needs should be met. The survey findings will assist the Alberta government as it plans for an increasing population of seniors.

The survey is focused on baby boomers and those who are almost 65 years old, but Albertans of all ages can complete the survey. The news release goes on to say that the survey information "will assist the province in the development of an Aging Population Policy Framework that will guide future government decisions on seniors’ programs and policies."

I think it's very important to have sufficient input from rural and small town Albertans or we could get lost in the urban perspective when that framework is developed.

The online survey will be available until the end of August at www.TomorrowsSeniors.alberta.ca. Albertans without access to the Internet can have a survey mailed to them by calling toll-free 1-800-642-3853.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Peace River's New Roundabout

Alberta Transportation has started the roundabout project at the site of the confusing 5-way traffic light at the entrance to Peace River by the Sawridge and Boston Pizza. Modern roundabouts are apparently different than the feared traffic circle and the expectation is that it will make for smoother driving at that intersection, once people figure it out.

There will be some public education attached to the project, but in the meantime, residents can access a pamphlet from Transport Canada, or have a look at the excellent animations and video on BC's Transportation Ministry website.

When you watch, keep in mind that our roundabout will only be one lane, which makes things even simpler. But if you drive in Edmonton, you'll appreciate knowing the correct way to navigate the roundabouts you encounter there.

At the Council meeting last night when representatives from Alberta Transportation, Stantec and Ruel Brothers outlined the complete project (which also involves re-surfacing Main Street on up to Judah Road) and described the public education they would provide, I half-jokingly asked if they could also throw in education about merging, since much of our population appears to have difficulty with this.

We have one particularly difficult merge coming onto the highway and when people don't understand the difference between yielding and merging, it becomes pretty dangerous. Here's some information from the Alberta government on how to safely merge. Check it out and see if you are doing it properly.

Sometimes in small towns we don't pay enough attention to traffic flow, courtesy and efficiency or just get inattentive. Watch this video of graceful merging in India and be amazed!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Rural Matters Conference Days 1 & 2

Mayor Callioux, Councillor Laurin, and I are attending the national Rural Matters conference in Edmonton. The theme of the conference is "Forging healthy Canadian communities," and the variety of speakers shows the many ways in which a healthy community can be viewed.

At the opening gala on Saturday, we were entertained by a wonderful Cree singing group called Asani, which aside from performing internationally, has, according to Councillor Laurin, also been to Peace River for a performance at one of the schools.

I met a young woman from Newfoundland, one of the youth delegates from across the country and we sat together for the gala. She represents a provincial level youth organization called FINALY (Futures in Newfoundland and Laborador's Youth). Seems like a great idea to have a provincial youth network that is developing future leaders and is perhaps something for Albertan youth to consider.

Day 2 (Sunday) included an inspirational speech by Rex Murphy--funny, insightful, sometimes profound--all that I expect from Rex. There was a second keynote address by Dr. Mark Partridge entitled "Building Vibrant 21st Century Communities: Skip Hot Fads and Lose the Rearview Mirror." There was plenty of provocative information and statements to consider, but I take issue with a number of assumptions, including the desirability of commuting.

the two afternoon sessions included one presented by Ross Risvold, former mayor of Hinton, that looked at what Ross calls "virtual clusters" as a way of tying together rural communities and promoting innovation and opportunities. This is a concept worth exploring further and I'll be talking to Ross about the idea.

The second session was entitled "Tools to Build Entrepreneurial and Vital Communities" by Mike Stolte of the Centre for Innovative and Entrepreneurial Leadership (CIEL), based in Nelson, BC. He gave us some great tools for gauging a community's business friendliness, quality of life and discussed ways to assist communities to thrive in this constantly changing 21st century.

That's it for now--I'm heading off to Day 3 in a few minutes.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

July 4: Don't Miss the Literacy Bus in Peace River!

Parents or caregivers and anyone interested in literacy or just having fun will want to check out the Alberta Prairie C.O.W. Bus at the Peace Parent Link Centre (7715-99th Street, Peace River, south of Springfield School) on Friday, July 4 from 10:00 – 4:00 PM (closed from 12-1 PM).

Parent Link describes the COW (Classroom on Wheels) bus as "a friendly space for parents and young children, zero to six years, to learn and explore fun new ways to add literacy activities to their daily lives."

Call Peace Parent Link at 780-624-0770 for more information.

Council is Back At Full Strength/Voter Turnout

The election of Geoff Milligan on Friday has brought the Town of Peace River's Council back up to full strength after Jim Hancock resigned in May for a job transfer. Geoff brings a great deal of experience from his previous years on Town Council and former work life and will be a welcome addition. Congratulations, Geoff!

I'd also like to offer thanks to Tom Day and Hayden Gust for running in the by-election--it takes courage to put yourself out there--and to the 408 residents who took time in the busy month of June to cast a ballot.

Not to take away from the candidates in any way, since between-election vacancies on Council are often filled by acclamation, but this is a pretty sad voter turnout--just under 9% by my calculations (see below for explanation of how I came to this number). Where were the other 91% of citizens?

In October, when I was elected to Town Council, it seemed like the mayoralty race and the high number of candidates brought out a lot of voters. But using the same method to calculate that voter turnout, it was only about 30%. Certainly better than for the by-election (it's typical for by-elections to have a smaller turnout) but that's still an astonishing 70% choosing not to have a say in who represents them on Town Council.

The poor performance of voters in the March provincial election has sparked a great deal of discussion and debate that may have spillover at the local level. The Edmonton Journal is currently running a 3-part series called Project Democracy to look at the topic.

The authors of the Sunday article, "Too 'distracted' to vote?", note that "Leaders from municipal councils to the House of Commons worry a troubling trend is emerging across the country, as more people disengage from the democratic process" (p. A3). The article notes that 6 in 10 residents stayed home in March, giving Alberta what appears to be an historic low voter turnout and the dubious distinction of having the lowest in Canada for recent provincial elections (41.4%).

This turnout has sparked Elections Alberta to commission a first-ever post-election survey to gauge public attitudes on voting. I hope that the results and ensuing discussion will lead to greater understanding of why people appear to be so disengaged at all levels of government.

I can't help but wonder what recent immigrants from struggling democracies or countries where there is no vote think about how little our citizens appear to value the gift of living in a democracy.

Compulsory voting is one method that has been proposed to improve turnout. It is used in Australia and other democracies and might be dramatic enough to alert citizens to the importance of the vote. But I do hope there are also other ways to get people engaged, and perhaps we must start at the municipal level, where government is closest to the people.


Estimating Voter Turnout:

Unfortunately, Statistics Canada doesn't make it easy to figure out how many eligible voters live in the Town of Peace River. One reason is that ages are divided up in 5 year segments, which means that 18 and 19 year olds--potential voters--are included in the 15-19 segment. But, going with the 2006 census numbers, here's how I estimated the voter turnout in Friday's by-election:

Population in 2006: 6315.

Subtract 1840 children aged 0-19 
6315 - 1840 = 4475

Add back in 105 18 year-olds and 105 19 year-olds (assuming 105/year in the 15-19 segment; students who live away are counted on their parents' census)
4475 + 210 = 4685

408 voters divided by 4685 eligible voters and you get an estimated voter turnout of 8.7%.

For the October municipal election, using the total votes cast for the two mayoralty candidates (1425), the estimated turnout was 30.4%, based on 4685 eligible voters.

(If anyone reading this sees an error in my calculations or knows of a better way to do them, please let me know!)

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Town's New CAO starts August 18

The Town of Peace River issued a news release on Monday to announce the hiring of our new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Norma MacQuarrie. She will start on August 18 and we're all excited that she decided to come to Peace River. Her education (an MBA) and 25 years of work experience in local government (most recently in the Town of Beaumont) will be a great asset to the Town.

Norma herself indicates that she has "a passion" for local government and notes that "Peace River holds great potential in terms of growth opportunities." She says that she is "very excited about participating in the strategic planning process that the Town has started [and is] looking forward to working with the Council and staff of the Town of Peace River, carrying on with initiatives that have recently started."

And the runners in town will be glad to know they have another marathoner in their midst, as that is one of Norma's leisure activities.

Welcome, Norma!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Alberta Arts & Culture Council: Looking for applicants (deadline July 4)

On June 16, Premier Stelmach established a council on arts and culture, and applicants are invited to apply to sit on the council. There will be 11 members who are appointed for one, two or three-year terms and will meet at least twice each year. Members will be paid an honorarium for attending meetings; and travel expenses will be reimbursed as required. It would be wonderful to have a person from this part of the Peace Country on that council so if you, or someone you know, would be interested, consider applying.

This council will help guide the implementation of The Spirit of Alberta - Alberta’s Cultural Policy and according to the news release will be tasked with:

  • acting as provincial champions for culture and helping to build a greater awareness and appreciation of its social and economic benefits,
  • providing advice on cultural initiatives designed to address the policy’s four goals: Access, Capacity, Excellence and Cultural Industries; and
  • facilitating and enhancing partnerships that strengthen Alberta’s cultural community and preserve our cultural legacy.

To apply for a position on the council, visit www.jobs.alberta.ca and enter in competition number 49578. The closing date for this competition is July 4.

Aboriginal Pow Wow & Gathering: June 21-22

The weather looks great so far for the first day of the huge Aboriginal Pow Wow and Gathering here in Peace River at Misery Mountain Ski Hill (if it turns bad, the Kinsmen Arena is the alternate site).

This is the 5th annual gathering and 13th annual pow wow, celebrating National Aboriginal Day. There are dancers, drummers, singers and fiddlers of all ages gathered here from the region, the province, and beyond to celebrate Aboriginal culture and pride. There are also activities for children planned.

Dozens of individuals, businesses and organizations are sponsors of the event, and it also involves many, many hard-working volunteers, recruited and coordinated by the regional Aboriginal Interagency Committee.

Mayor Callioux is participating in today's Grande Entry at 1:00 and I have the honour of doing that tomorrow.

At 3:00 tomorrow I'll also attend the celebration for First Nations, Metis & Inuit (FNMI) students who have graduated this year from local high schools. There are increasing numbers of Aboriginal young people who are achieving this milestone and the Pow Wow & Gathering is a great place to help celebrate and honour this accomplishment.

I encourage Peace River and area residents to come out and enjoy the costumes and some amazing dancing, singing and music (and food)! It won't matter what time you come between 12:30 and 11:00 PM today or tomorrow, there will be lots to do and see.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


The date for the by-election and advance poll, along with times and locations for the vote is now available on the Town of Peace River website.

The advance poll is on Monday, June 23 from Noon-4:00 at Heritage Towers.

The by-election day vote is Friday, June 27 from 10:00 to 8:00 at the Peace Regional Pool Activity Room.

Three candidates were nominated for the one spot left by the departure of former councillor, Jim Hancock, who has been transferred to Lethbridge. It's great to have this kind of interest so that residents to have a choice in who serves them on Town Council. I'll be happy to work with any one of these men.

This article in the Peace River Record-Gazette introduced the candidates to readers. In a subsequent article, each candidate was asked to respond to the same questions. Following are the names and links, in alphabetical order:

Tom Day

Hayden Gust

Geoff Milligan


Get involved--VOTE on the 23rd or the 27th!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Utilization-Focused Evaluation

I've been in rainy Calgary attending three days of workshops with the guru of utilization-focused evaluation, Michael Quinn Patton and also Frances Westley, JW McConnell Chair in Social Innovation at the University of Waterloo. While the training is related to my consulting work, I couldn't help but also try to apply what I was learning to municipal work. Lots to think about and process.

Patton and Westley are co-authors, with Brenda Zimmerman, of a book on social innovation called Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed (2006). Zimmerman is one of the speakers at the Tamarack Communities Collaborating Institute that I'm attending in September in Kitchener, Ontario.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Launch of Two New Exhibits at Peace River Museum, Archives & Mackenzie Centre

The Peace River Museum, Archives and Mackenzie Centre will launch two new exhibits -- Treaty 8 and From the Land during an evening of storytelling and Métis fiddling, June 5, 6:30-8 pm.

The Treaty 8 exhibit and From the Land, a new rocks and fossils exhibit from local rock collector, Don Holt, tell stories about and from the land. Both exhibits will be on display throughout the summer.

In addition, well-respected historian David Leonard will be in attendance at the launch. David was instrumental in the production of the Treaty 8 exhibit for the Spirit of the Peace Museums. He has authored and co-authored several books on the Peace River Country, the most recent of which is The Last Great West – The Agricultural Settlement of the Peace Country to 1914.

For more information contact the Museum at 624-4261 or museum@peaceriver.net.


Hope to see you at the launch!

Sisters in Spirit Walk


What a tremendous turnout for the Sisters in Spirit Walk last night! I would guess there were around 100 of us gathered by the mall--women, men, children, dancers, drummers and most importantly, family and friends of murdered or missing Aboriginal women.

At 7:00, with two RCMP in red serge, we set out walking down Peace River's Main Street and then to Riverfront Park. Town staff blocked traffic at intersections so we could walk safely.

Once at the park, we solemnly filed past a fire and dropped a small tobacco pouch into the flames, pausing to offer a silent prayer or thought.

Following this and after everyone was welcomed by Elder Helen Piper and Brenda Brochu (Executive Director of the Peace River Regional Women's Shelter and a driving force behind the Sisters in Spirit Organizing Committee, which is part of the Aboriginal Inter-agency Committee), the names of 40 murdered or missing Aboriginal women from Northern Alberta and BC were read. It was shocking to hear all those names and to recognize so many last names common to our area.

After this, two female and two male dancers performed an honour dance. The male dancers, Dave Matilpi and Dennis Whitford, were resplendent in their regalia. Unfortunately, I don't know the names of the women dancers, who may have been from Driftpile.

I was honoured to bring remarks on behalf of Mayor and Council (Mayor Callioux was travelling and unable to attend).

Sylvia Johnson spoke on behalf of Zone Six of the Metis Nation of Alberta.

Heather King, Regional Manager of Prevention of Family Violence and Bullying of Northwest Children and Youth Services offered an emotional tribute to the women and their families and called for more to be done to prevent further tragedies.

The keynote speaker was Muriel Stanley Venne, President of the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women, which advocates on behalf of Aboriginal Women and conducts a variety of activities and projects, including the annual Esquao Awards that honour Aboriginal women who have made significant contributions in their communities. Muriel traced the toll that residential schools had on Aboriginal individuals and communities and talked about the racism that has contributed to the large number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women and the lack of action on their behalf.

Families then offered tributes to four women:

Rosemarie Beaver, who was murdered in 1994. A large group from Driftpile, including Grand Chief Rose Laboucan of the Lesser Slave Lake Indian Regional Council, remembered Rosemarie.

Brenda Moreside, who was stabbed in her home in 2005. Family members from High Prairie spoke about her.

Nina Courtepatte, whose mother Peacha Atkinson, accompanied by her son and daughter, came from Edmonton to help us remember Nina, whose horrific murder was in headlines this past year during the trials of the accused.

Lorilee Mae Francis, who went missing in Grande Prairie last October. Her grandmother and other family travelled from High Level to offer hope that she is safe and to plead for any news of her whereabouts.

Others were then offered the opportunity to speak and many did, including the father of Rene Gunning, who disappeared three years ago along with Krystle Knott. These young women from the Ft. St. John area were last seen at West Edmonton Mall.

As a mother, I can't imagine the worry and heartbreak of having one of my children missing or murdered. To realize just how many Aboriginal families endure this heartbreak is shocking and very disturbing.

As the wind blew but the rain held off, we all did a round dance (my first) and then went to the Anglican Church hall for bannock and coffee.

It was an emotional evening and it felt good to participate and in a small way, offer solidarity with Aboriginal communities that have endured, and continue to endure, such a toll on their women.

In my remarks, I encouraged all of us to press for solutions so that Aboriginal women will not be at such great risk. Grand Chief Laboucan called for non-Aboriginal people to write to our MPs to encourage Canada to adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Perhaps that recognition, along with the government's forthcoming apology for the damage done by the residential school system, will be small first steps towards greater inclusion and solutions for Canada's indigenous people. At the municipal level, we all need to continue to work together so all residents feel included and valued.

It's certainly not over--just as I was writing this entry, an email came with a poster of 14-year-old Maria D’or from the Little Red River Cree Nation, last seen May 30 in Peace River. Anyone who has seen her is urged to call (780) 624-2219 or the local RCMP at (780) 624-6611.

NOTE: Maria was located this afternoon. Great news!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Council Nomination Deadline: Friday noon

Have you thought about running for Town Council? Have you got your nomination papers signed and ready for tomorrow?

Since the resignation of Jim Hancock due to a transfer to Lethbridge, Town Council has been functioning with one person too few so we are anxiously waiting for tomorrow's nomination deadline.

Nominations are being received at Town Office between 10:00 AM and noon. Don't forget your $25 in cash--when I was filing my nomination last fall, one candidate's agent had to run to the bank when he learned that a cheque wouldn't do.

I hope there will be an election--it's much more satisfying to take office that way--but whoever is elected or acclaimed, the rest of us are looking forward to having a full Council and working with that new person.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Plan to Attend: Community Health Council Annual General Meeting

On Thursday, May 22, Alberta's Minister of Health & Wellness announced that he had delivered stunning news to the board members of the nine regional health authorities, AADAC, the Alberta Cancer Board and the Alberta Mental Health Board: "You're fired." More details are found in four Ministerial Orders.

I'm the Town Council member of the Peace River Community Health Council, a body that is still, as far as we know, permitted under legislation. But what the changes mean for the CHC is not known.

This link for CHCs on the former Peace Country Health website explains the role the Councils had. Will the government keep the CHCs, dismiss them, or make changes? We don't know, but have decided to go ahead with our AGM so we're prepared for whatever happens in the fall when legislation will be changed.

Please plan to attend the AGM and to let our government know that even in this time of uncertainty, Peace River residents are committed to maintaining a local voice for health services delivery.

Annual General Meeting: June 4, 7:00 PM at the Peace River Community Health Centre.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Sisters in Spirit Walk: June 3

I will be representing Town Council at the Sisters in Spirit Walk on June 3. The walk and vigil are to remember Aboriginal women who are missing or have been murdered. Everyone is not only welcome, but encouraged to attend. This is a great Canadian social tragedy that should be of concern to everyone--men, women, old, young, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.

We will meet at Riverdrive Mall at 6:30 to begin the walk at 7:00. After a walk through the downtown area, we'll convene at Riverfront Park, where at 7:30 there will be a vigil, a reading of the names of missing or murdered women from Northern Alberta, the sharing of memories by family members, and a keynote address by Muriel Stanley Venne, from the Institute for the Advancement of Aboriginal Women.

Providing Homes for Aboriginal Children: Recruitment of Aboriginal Caregivers Gathering & Feast

The Aboriginal Inter-agency Committee is presenting this event in an effort to find short-term and long-term Aboriginal caregivers for Aboriginal children who are temporarily unable to live with their parents.

Guest Speaker for the event, to be held on Tuesday, May 27 at 5:30 at the Sagitawa Friendship Centre (basement entrance), is Loretta English Parenteau. Ms. Parenteau has experience growing up away from her parents and is also able to share her positive experiences as an Aboriginal Caregiver.

As Town Council's representative on the Aboriginal Inter-agency Committee, I plan to attend after the Library Committee meeting, so maybe I'll see you there.

For further information, contact Dennis Whitford at 624-6367 or dennis.whitford@gov.ab.ca

Saturday, May 17, 2008

No More Peace Health Region

While Council was immersed in a two-day planning retreat, Ron Liepert, Alberta's Health Minister, made the stunning announcement that he was disbanding and dismissing the boards of all nine health regions, AADAC, Alberta Mental Health Board, and the Alberta Cancer Board in order to implement a new health system governance model.

While this news is small potatoes compared with the misery being caused by natural disasters in Burma and China, it has the potential to greatly affect the delivery of healthcare in our communities. Whether this impact is positive or negative remains to be seen.

It's always easier, perhaps human nature, to see the downsides of major changes, and having lost my job during the last round of regional shuffles, it is REALLY easy for me to see the downsides!

So I tried to think of some pros to the changes and had initial thoughts about potential efficiencies, higher and more consistent standards, or more effective staff support with provincial oversight for issues such as patient safety, infection control, perinatal care, mental health or continuing care.

This central governance with what is being called a "Superboard" will certainly make it easier for the government not to have all those boards pressuring for more money and services. But will it also make it a lot easier to close facilities because there will be fewer local officials on the hot seat for such decisions? Will it make it easier to introduce privatized services? Will it be easier or harder to pay attention to prevention?

Could this really mean the end of have and have-not regions, one of the reasons given for the change? Will equitable care and service really be available to all Albertans? Will this model actually result in more frontline workers, more efficient delivery of service, shorter wait times, and less administration or will there simply be administration that is centralized a great distance from our communities? These are the wait-and-see aspects of the changes.

On the con side, I fear that we will lose administrative-level positions in the health sector. This is what I see as a trend towards the de-skilling of rural and northern areas of Alberta. When high-level jobs are lost to communities like Peace River, whole families move. Without higher-level jobs available, organizations may find it harder to recruit because there are fewer employment opportunities for spouses.

The other worry I have is around loss of local input and a say in what happens to the delivery of healthcare in our community. Without board members who live in or near, how will the Superboard know how its decisions are affecting us? Will those members actually care? Will the Community Health Councils become crucial links to ensuring there is a local voice about healthcare delivery or will they also be disbanded?

And as a Town Councillor, I'm wondering whether municipal government will now need to take a more active approach to monitoring and advocating for healthcare in our communities? We've been able to fairly comfortably leave that with the health region board. With resources already stretched at the municipal level, is this something we can take on with any level of confidence? With all the other things we already need to advocate for with the provincial and federal governments, can we realistically add this to our plates?

Lots of questions and not many answers at this point, but it's something I'll be paying close attention to as a person employed (somewhat peripherally) in the health sector, and as the Town Council member of the Community Health Council.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Celebrate Environment Week: Mark your calendar for Peace River's Event on June 5

Environment Week 2008 events in Peace River are being held on Thursday, June 5, at 11:30am - 3:00pm at Riverfront Park, which is located in downtown Peace River, adjacent to the eastside boat launch, across from the back of Athabasca Hall.

Free BBQ from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm.

The Green Stop website describes the day as including a variety of environmental displays encouraging the public to protect our environment along with handouts, prizes, and information on the new ECO C
entre project, AWQA Water testing and wetlands.

Green Stop
(scroll down to Peace River)

Thursday, May 8, 2008


I attended the Municipal Sustainability Planning workshop presented by the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) as a pre-conference session for the Alberta’s Environment Conference, April 21-22, in Edmonton.

AUMA is actively promoting the idea of municipal sustainability planning MSP which it describes as “an opportunity for municipalities to look long-term at the communities they want and take proactive steps to move there. It is an opportunity to engage citizens in a dialogue about what they value about their communities and what they want them to look like in the future.” Sustainability is “meeting the needs of the present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.”

The workshop itself consisted of a keynote presentation by the Executive Director of The Natural Step Canada which has been working with AUMA and Alberta municipalities on sustainability planning. The Natural Step website describes itself as:

The Natural Step Canada is a non-profit organization providing results orientated advisory and training services to help community and business leaders integrate social, environmental and economic decision making into their operations with a holistic, proven and scientifically-rigorous framework.

The Natural Step offers eLearning courses in sustainability and the AUMA has an agreement for a discounted price of $85 for the course (it is normally $120).

The AUMA’s toolkit on municipal sustainability has used features of The Natural Step’s process and added to it, so that the framework consists of five pillars or dimensions for municipalities to engage around: Economy; Governance; Environment; Society; and Culture.

We heard presentations from each of the five pilot communities that were funded by AUMA to under MSP: Town of Olds, Village of Thorhild, Village of Chauvin, Town of Claresholm, and Town of Pincher Creek, as well as the work done by Okotoks and Canmore towards sustainability. The PowerPoint presentations can be accessed at:

There will be a new Request for Proposals from AUMA for communities to be assisted to do an MSP and I think that we could make a very good case for Peace River, tying in nicely to the strategic planning that Council is undertaking soon and the community consultation we are already planning for.

We received a copy of a new booklet for Albertans produced by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation and The Natural Step called Sustainability At Home: A toolkit. Decision-making help for your everyday choices. It will soon be available in hard copy but in the meantime is available online from the AUMA.

Following the workshop there was an optional networking dinner at which Todd Babiak, an author and Edmonton Journal columnist, spoke on the importance of arts and culture to municipalities to the quality of life and contributors to the economy. Babiak mentioned the recently-developed Edmonton Cultural Plan, The Art of Living: A Plan for Securing the Future of Arts and Heritage in the City of Edmonton and commented on how brilliant it is. I’d like to suggest that it would be worth reviewing with some members of Peace River’s art and culture community.

At Alberta’s Environment Conference, held in partnership with the AUMA, I attended the following sessions and would be pleased to share thoughts about any of them. Once the PowerPoint presentations for all sessions are available online, I’ll let Council know where these can be obtained.

  • Economics: A science of decision-making (presented by Anish Neupane, a resource economist with Alberta Environment. Some of his major responsibilities include providing economic and socioeconomic advice related to policy formulation and development).
  • The Impact of Energy Efficiency on the Environment (presented by John Rilett, the Director of Energy Efficiency and Conservation at Climate Change Central, a unique public-private partnership that promotes the development of innovative responses to global climate change and its impacts.)
  • Where Ideas Flow: A panel on the newly created Alberta Water Research Institute
  • Regulatory Considerations in a Brownfield Redevelopment Strategy (presented by Kevan van Velzen, Manager, Environmental Assessment and Liabilities, City of Calgary).
  • Life Cycle Assessment of Oil Sands: A quantitative multi-sectoral approach to environmental stewardship (this was a panel on LCA, which extends traditional analyses of environmental impacts by incorporating the gamut of goods and services involved in production, use, and disposal of a product to construct a holistic reflection of total impacts from “cradle to grave.”
  • Challenges, Solutions & Opportunities for Large Scale Wind Power Integration into Alberta (presented by John H Kehler, Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) and David Huggill, Western Canada Policy Manager, Canadian Wind Energy Association.

The Environment Minister, Rob Renner, was a keynote speaker and there was a lunchtime announcement of a new certificate program in consensus building that the Alberta Government and the Alberta Arbitration and Mediation Society have established in prominent Alberta environmentalist Martha Kostuch’s name. There is also a bursary being made available for the program, funded by the Alberta Government. Ms. Kostuch died the day after the announcement and presentation of flowers to her grand-daughter.

There was a large trade fair of products and services related to the environment. I have passed along some information to staff.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Link to a New Blog: Dean Ward in the Crowsnest Pass

Dean Ward, a second-term councillor for the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass, started blogging in January and recently contacted me about including a link to his blog (and he will do the same for mine). It's great seeing other councillors taking up the blogging habit so I'm happy to link with Dean's and to begin learning more about life and government in the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass.

The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass (http://www.town.crowsnestpass.ab.ca/) lies in the southwesterly corner of Alberta. This is a regional municipality made up of towns and the surrounding rural areas, with Blairmore the main economic and commercial centre. Wikipedia provides more detail about the area and its government structure (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowsnest_Pass,_Alberta).

This is a beautiful part of the province, rich with history. I remember visiting the Frank Slide area as a kid and was thrilled to return as an adult to tour the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre, just one of the attractions the area has to offer.

Beauty carries its own problems, as the Town of Peace River knows all too well. Our service costs are higher than more compact communities that don't have a river or deep valley to contend with. I can imagine that the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass has those challenges and more, providing services to people in towns as well as those living in the rural areas of the municipality. I'm intrigued with the idea of regional governance and will be in touch with Dean to find out more about how that is working for them.

Take a peek yourself at Dean's blog (link in the right panel) and see how one councillor views political and community life in the Crowsnest Pass. Another Crowsnest Pass councillor, Gary Taje, has a blog that also is worth a visit. You'll also note the link to Bill Given's blog. Bill is a Grande Prairie alderman whose blog provided inspiration for my own and continues to do so.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Let's Pick Up the Peace (again)

This joint clean-up campaign, originally initiated by Lisa and Richard Armstrong and this year supported by the Town of Peace River and Tim Horton's, finally happened. It was scheduled for Earth Day (April 22), but with the fresh snowfall, couldn't go ahead.

A group of residents (I'm not sure of the final numbers) plunged ahead last night amidst cloudy skies and a pretty strong wind to do what we could to clean up the litter around town. I had the pleasure of cleaning with another woman and her two young children, which made it all the better. We felt like goats as we clambered up the side of the hill near the Log Cabin, but oh, that hillside looks so much better now without the garbage! Tim Horton's brought us bottles of water, which was a nice perk.

Many thanks to the Armstrong family, Tim Horton's, and the Town Staff for getting this organized. And also big thanks to all the residents who turned out to help clean up the garbage left when the snow disappears. I still shake my head at how people can throw out coffee cups, candy wrappers, cigarette packages and all the other stuff that appears on the ground--community pride doesn't seem to be part of their thinking. We need to find ways to reach them. Any ideas?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Let's Pick Up the Peace" Project

Building on my last posting about the town looking grubby, Lisa & Richard Armstrong are once again initiating a citizen clean-up project for the town. What great community commitment they show with their "Let's Pick Up the Peace" Project.

Plan to meet them and others next Tuesday, April 22nd at 6:30 pm at the Centennial Parking Lot (that's the one behind the Telus building). Bring your boots, gloves and a friend. Garbage bags will be provided.

And as they say in their email: Remember: It takes 1 person 20 hours to do what 20 people can do in 1 hour. Can you give up 1 hour?

Unfortunately, I'm going to be away on Tuesday, so instead, I'll just take a garbage bag when I go for a walk along the dike and do my bit to keep the area clean.

Many thanks to Lisa and Richard for taking this project on. If readers need further details, contact the Armstrongs at llarm@abnorth.com.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Cleaning Up the Town

April 21 to 27 is Pitch-In Week and while the Town is not participating directly in that initiative, I encourage Peace River residents to do what they can to help clean up the town.

For instance, have you taken the time yet to sweep the sidewalk in front of your house, apartment, or business? Now that the snow is gone, this is a small thing that each of us can do to help the town look much cleaner. Swept sidewalks are so much more appealing to walk on than ones covered in grit and garbage.

Another thing we can each do is take a bag with us when we walk and stop to pick up garbage along the way, like Councillor Laurin has done for years. Imagine if 4000+ adults picked up a few pieces of garbage and we all swept our sidewalks how quickly the town would get rid of that spring grubbiness!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Peace River Municipal Library: Update

As the Town Council representative on the Peace River Municipal Library Board, I will try to keep blog readers updated. Here are two items of interest for library patrons:

1. The Library Board is delighted to welcome back Theresa Hrab, who steps into the Library Manager position on April 1. Theresa held that position in the early 2000s and is coming back after an absence of nearly 5 years, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience that staff and patrons will appreciate.

In the absence of a Library Manager, Donna Cunliffe ably stepped into that role and kept things running, for which the Board is very grateful.

If you haven't been in the library for awhile, stop in and say "hello" to Theresa, Donna and the other staff.

2. The Peace River Municipal Library small-but-mighty Board needs some new faces. If you have an interest in the library and could spare a few hours a month to contribute to your community, please contact me and I'll pass your name along to the Board Chair. If you're not familiar with sitting on a board and would like to find out more, get in touch and I'd be happy to discuss this.

Our library is such an important resource to Peace River and area residents. People who are travelling come in to acquaint themselves with the area and use the free Internet service to check their email. Children come in with parents for special activities. There are pleasant areas to sit and read magazines or book. And with Interlibrary Loans, patrons are able to access nearly any book they want.

Although the library's website needs updating due to staffing shortages and transition over the past months, you can still find information about the library's services and use the links to the catalogues by visiting: http://www.prmlibrary.ab.ca/

I also thought that readers might be interested in knowing more about how libraries in Alberta work. In a previous blog entry I talked about the Peace Library System, which our library has been a part of since its inception. But did you know that Alberta libraries operate under their own legislation?

Here's how the Alberta Municipal Affairs & Housing website describes the relationship that libraries have with the province, schools and municipalities:

The Libraries Act defines the roles of the partners in library development. It recognizes the municipality as the foundation for public library service and the library boards as the major building blocks. It allows for cooperation between municipalities and school authorities to provide equitable and enhanced service through library systems in large regional areas.

The Libraries Act sets out the governance structure for public library service. It provides for the establishment of municipal and community library boards at the local level and system boards at the regional level. These autonomous boards cooperate through provincial networks and resource sharing agreements to give access to public library resources to all Albertans.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

River Breakup Advisory: Town of Peace River

Alberta Environment issued a River Breakup Advisory today for the Town of Peace River. Yesterday, the ice front was approximately 68 km upstream from the town and it is expected to come through within the next 7 days. The full advisory is available at: http://www3.gov.ab.ca/env/water/ws/advisories/080319.pdf

Not to alarm anyone, but it's always good to be ready for anything at this time of year. For information on emergency preparedness, you can download the Annual Spring Break-Up Contingency Plan Information Brochure from the Town's website: http://tiny.cc/5Pap5

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Emergency Preparedness

When warm weather, melting snow, and longer days signal spring in Peace River, we all start watching the river for break-up--always an anxious time. Now that I'm part of the Town's Emergency Management Agency, I find myself even more aware than I was in the past about what this time of year means and how important it is to be prepared for anything.

This week, residents received the Town's Annual Information Brochure: Spring Break-Up Contingency Plan in their mailbox. As the cover states, the intent is not to frighten or alarm residents, but to inform and help us all think about our readiness for an emergency.

The provincial and federal emergency management agencies have started to ask Canadians to be prepared to be relatively self-sufficient for the first 72 hours of an emergency of any kind, and there are many possibilities beyond flooding, such as extended power outages, a tornado, rail derailment/toxic spill, or even a terrorism incident.

When you think about the chaos that often exists after a major emergency, early responders should be able to concentrate on establishing order and dealing with injured or people at risk rather than worrying about whether the rest of us have food and water or are prepared to be evacuated. We can make their jobs easier by being prepared.

On Get Prepared.ca (http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/index_e.asp), there is a booklet that can be downloaded that will help you and your family be prepared for those first 72 hours. The booklet contains a list of the supplies we should have on hand and be able to easily access, documents we need copies of, what to do with your house if you get evacuated, and so on. There is also an excellent page on flooding, including ways to minimize damage in the case of a flood: http://www.getprepared.gc.ca/risks/floods_e.asp

On the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) website, you can access a variety of resources on emergency preparedness and emergency management, including brochures entitled "Before the Flood," "After the Flood, " and "Flooding." While the Town has put a number of measures into place to minimize the risk of flooding, such as rebuilding the Heart River bridge and working with Alberta Environment and BC Hydro to closely monitor freeze-up and break-up, Mother Nature doesn't always cooperate and we're better prepared if we're knowledgeable.

Beyond personal safety and planning, businesses have become increasingly aware, since 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina, that they need to find ways to ensure business continuity after a disaster. The Public Safety Canada website has a resource on this topic called
A guide to business continuity planning, available at this link: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/prg/em/gds/bcp-eng.aspx

There are more links on business continuity on the AEMA website:

Let's do our part for emergency preparedness by being ready to spend the first 72 hours without power or other amenities or to be prepared for evacuation after a major event. Check out the supplies list and see how well you'd fare if disaster struck tonight. I'll be checking that list myself!