Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Statistics Canada study: Immigrants in the hinterlands 1992-2005

Here's a good selling point for the Peace River area: A new study from Statistics Canada shows that immigrants living in small towns and in rural areas tend to achieve economic integration much faster than immigrants living in large urban areas.

The study, Immigrants in the Hinterlands 1992-2005, was published on Friday in Perspectives on Labour and Income. You can read the news release or access the full report at:

During the years of the study (1992-2005), the income gap between immigrants and Canadians closed more rapidly in small cities than the large cities, but even more rapidly in smaller towns and rural areas.

In very large urban areas, the initial income gap between Canadians and immigrants was 37%, dropping to 22% after four years and by the 12th year, it fell below 10%.

Contrast this with the income gap in small urban areas, where the gap had dropped to 14% after four years and by the 11th year, was 18% higher than Canadians living in similar centres.

But in small towns and rural areas, the average income of immigrants was 4% higher than that of Canadians after only one year of permanent residence.

Even refugees, which could be seen as a more vulnerable population than immigrants, find more economic success outside the large cities. The study notes that "Although refugees represented only 5% of immigrants in small towns and rural areas, they integrated very rapidly—so rapidly that, after only one year, their incomes were 10% greater than those of Canadians living in the same type of area. In contrast, refugees in very large urban areas earned 43% less and, after 13 years of residence, the gap was about 20%."

The report explores reasons why this difference may be seen but comes to no solid conclusions. What stood out for me was the suggestion that "the creation of a network--formal or informal--with non-immigrants would likely be inevitable in smaller areas, precisely because of the smaller proportion of immigrants there. In return, this network may be critical to economic integration even if the small proportion of immigrants may be a source of other kinds of disadvantages" (p. 11).

This speaks to me of the importance of having immigrant settlement services available to newcomers, where they can meet non-immigrants, get help with English (if that is needed), learn about Canadian culture, and to establish networks that will help with finding work or setting up businesses. Peace River has been fortunate that local agencies have responded to the larger numbers of immigrants coming to the area. Our little town is becoming increasingly diverse and for me, that is good news, because with immigration comes a more interesting community along with much-needed workers, students for our schools, and potential business owners.

So what does Peace River offer immigrants who come to our community? North Country Power of Work (NCPW) (phone 618-2820) has provided services for many years that help Canadians and immigrants to improve skills in areas such as using computers, doing job searches, and writing resumes. Parts of this function is now apparently being taken over by Alberta Employment, Immigration & Industry and it remains to be seen whether the government agency is able to provide the same level of friendly and responsive service that NCPW offers. Here's the URL for AEII:

Peace Adult Literacy & English As a Second Language (phone 618-2838) started out as just Peace Adult Literacy until the need for ESL became so obvious in the past few years. Sharing space with NCPW has allowed synergies to occur between local people and immigrants and has been a great asset to Peace River. Peace Adult Literacy uses volunteer literacy and ESL tutors, so if you've got some time, give them a call to see whether they can use your services.

The Peace Association for Lifelong Learning has been another important factor in getting immigrant settlement services established by identifying and brokering grants. In the January-June Community Learning Guide, residents can learn about classes of interest to new residents such as a Citizenship Test Prep Class or ESL: Playing in English (for mothers and children). PAL has also partnered in offering community potlucks, which has allowed local people and immigrants and other new residents to come together and meet one another. There is much more in the guide, which can be picked up at the pool or NCPW (which handles PAL course registration)--I've just highlighted some of the offerings of relevance to immigrants.

The Town of Peace River Community Services is putting together a newcomers' packet that will help all new residents identify what is available in town and how to get in touch, so watch for that.

As a community, we need to continue to find ways to meet new people and to help them settle in and thrive. Do you have ideas for how we might do this?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Councillor Report: January 28, 2008

At the Town Council meeting last night, I provided the following report on my activities to Council and the public, but thought I'd also post it here before I head out for the workshop on occupational health and safety that is mentioned below (it's going to be a cold walk!).

When I went back and reviewed the various board and committee meetings I've attended over the past couple of months, never mind the other kinds of meetings (such as four about the river freeze-up and concerns about seepage flooding in Lower West Peace), it became apparent why life was suddenly feeling so much busier. There haven't been any meetings that I would consider a waste of time and they've all given me a broader look at the important work of various agencies and organizations as well as the work of the staff of the Town of Peace River and the Mayor and Town Councillors.


JANUARY 28, 2008

Aboriginal Interagency Committee

I’ve attended two meetings of this group, which is coordinated by Alberta Child & Family Services, chaired by Dennis Whitford of CFSA and Corinna Reimert, Aboriginal Liaison at the Peace River Health Centre. The Interagency includes representatives from a range of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal organizations that are active in the Peace area, including Manning and Cadotte Lake. The model has been so successful in providing a venue for identifying and addressing issues of importance to the Aboriginal community that other Aboriginal Interagencies within the boundaries of the Region 8 (Northwestern)Child & Family Services Authority have been established in the past year. For a map of Region 8, go to:

The AIC is working with CFSA on an initiative to try to increase the number of Aboriginal foster homes available. Another important activity is planning and fundraising for the annual Aboriginal Gathering which will be held in Peace River, June 21-22.

Community Health Council

The council has not yet met since I was appointed. The next meeting is scheduled for February.

North Peace Housing Coalition

A news conference about the preliminary housing report that I prepared prior to election to Council was held on Wednesday, January 16. My contract with the coalition is now complete and I’ve been released, at my request, from the remainder of the contract.

As per the motion at the January 14 Council meeting, I now am the Town Council representative on the coalition and will report to Council accordingly.

Peace River Municipal Library Board

I attended my first board meeting on January 22.

Highlights of the meeting:

· The new librarian, Chelsea Ferguson, was introduced and welcomed back to Peace River. Chelsea worked at the library as a teen and has a library technician diploma.
The library board is looking for new members. Anyone interested is encouraged to contact Heather Schramm, the board chair at 624-4815 or email:

· The 2007 financial statements were reviewed and thanks given to Chantal Patterson, who did a large amount of work after her resignation as librarian to complete these.

· Linda Duplessis of the Peace Library System (PLS) did a presentation on the wide range of services offered to the local library as a result of our membership. Council members may want to visit the library website to find out more about the services it provides and for a link to the PLS. The PLS provides the benefits of a network and partnerships, such as centralized ordering (which results in significant discounts), cataloguing and delivery, advice from professional librarians, coordination of granting programs, technical support and training for local staff, among others. With the TRAC/TAL library card you can borrow books from 240 participating libraries and access a variety of databases from home (including ones on auto repair, genealogy, among others). Go to the Peace River Municipal Library website and click on PLS for more information.

Town of Peace River Health & Safety Committee

I’ve attended two meetings of this committee, which addresses issues related to Town of Peace River staff. Highlights:

· A series of workshops are being offered for staff by the Alberta Municipal Health & Safety Association (AMHSA) on January 29-31. Topics include: Overview of Occupational Health & Safety Act, Regulations and Code (I am taking this one, as a member of the H&S Committee); Hazard Identification; Formal Workplace Inspections; and Incident Investigations.

· We received the results of the 2007 Municipal Health and Safety Audit. The Town of Peace River exceeded the minimum standards of the audit, which allows us to maintain the Town’s Certificate of Recognition and to receive a 5% rebate from the Town’s annual Workers’ Compensation Board contribution.

The following elements make up the audit, which is done every three years by external auditors (2007) and followed up annually with internal auditors: Organizational Commitment, Hazard Control, Formal Workplace Inspections, Orientation & Training, Emergency Response Planning, Incident Investigations, and Program Administration. The H&S Committee will be working with the departments to review the report and develop an action plan for addressing ways to further improve in each of these areas.

Town of Peace River Municipal Planning Commission

I’ve attended two meetings of the commission since being appointed. There is one more meeting scheduled in January. We meet with Amy Murphy, Development Officer, to review development proposals.

Town of Peace River Risk Management Committee

I attended my first meeting of this committee on January 21. This committee’s mandate is to address issues of concern around insurance and the public’s well-being. Due to the large number of new members, this meeting was used as an orientation and an introduction to the Alberta Municipal Services Corporation (AMSC) Risk Management Manual and accompanying modules that the committee will use to guide its work in the area of risk identification and management. The AMSC is an arms-length body of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) created in 2005 that provides a wide variety of services to urban municipalities, including insurance. For more information about AMSC, go to

NOTE for Councillors: If we see hazards around the town, we are required to report them to the Municipal Secretary.

Intermunicipal Mutual Aid Committee

This committee hasn’t met since I was appointed.

Other Activities

Municipal Elected Officials Course
Along with Councillors Hancock and Heinen, I attended this half-day workshop in Peace River with elected officials from around the region. It was presented by the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA). The course familiarized participants with the context of disasters, the Alberta Emergency Management Framework, and the roles and responsibilities of elected officials during a disaster.

AEMA website:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Affordable Housing

I wrote the piece below ages ago but never did get it posted. Since then, Town Council has approved a plan to pursue provincial funds in partnership with the North Peace Housing Foundation to construct a proposed 35-unit complex that would include accessible units, ones rented at market rates, and units that will be affordable for people on low incomes. This is an exciting initiative that could help ease the rental situation in Peace River somewhat and provide much-needed housing for people identified in the study described below who currently have great difficulty finding suitable housing.

Here's the posting I wrote awhile back. Still relevant, I hope:

Brenda Brochu, co-chair of the North Peace Housing Coalition, and I did a news conference on January23 about the study I completed in August-September (prior to becoming a Town Councillor) for the Coalition. The report, entitled Final Preliminary Housing Needs Assessment: Peace River was funded by Peace Country Health. It reviewed the affordable housing situation in Peace River along a continuum of housing needs ranging from emergency shelters to affordable purchase housing.

Since this was a preliminary study, it relied on secondary data, such as an annual study from the Alberta government on rental vacancies in communities under 10,000 population, conducted in July-July 2006. (Partial results for 2007 are available at:

Interviews were also conducted with a range of service providers in the Peace River area, and an effort was made to place the situation in Peace River within the larger Canadian context.

Although affordable housing has really hit the news over the past year in Alberta, the topic has been on the policy map for many years and alarms were being sounded years ago by agencies and organizations working with the more vulnerable populations in large urban areas such as Toronto and Vancouver. An early entry into efforts to bring the issue forward was a book entitled Finding Room: Policy options for a Canadian rental housing strategy, edited by J. David Hulchanski and Michael Shapcott and with a Forward by David Miller, Mayor of the City of Toronto (2004). It brought together papers and presentations from a policy forum hosted by the Centre for Urban and Community Studies in June 2003 on a new national rental housing strategy.

The Canada West Foundation published Over Our Heads: Affordable housing and urban growth in Western Canada (Dr. Shannon Orr) in 2000. In October 2007, it brought forward a discussion paper offering 10 considerations for addressing affordable housing shortfalls, entitled Building the Future: Public policy considerations for affordable housing in Canada by Karen Wilkie, Senior Policy Analyst. (A news release and the full report are available online at:

Building the Future nicely captures the environment that now prevails in Canada, even in formerly sleepy old Peace River:
The affordable housing issue is not new. However, growing demand, a scarcity of supply and a sense of urgency are elevating the issue on the public agenda, and affordable housing has emerged as one of the greatest public policy challenges facing Canadian communities. The factors contributing to the growing demand for affordable housing include the rise in housing costs (both home ownership and rental prices), the general rise in the cost of living (e.g., utilities, food and transportation), record low vacancy rates, and the growing gap between high and low wage earners. The scarcity of supply is explained by condominium conversions, gentrification, and urban population growth.
In June 2007, the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership, based in Calgary, issued a report entitled Shelter: Homelessness in a Growth Economy by Gordon Laird. The executive summary stated that "Housing insecurity is a national concern, an issue that affects a broad portion of Canada’s population and reflects major trends in income distribution. In 2004, one in seven Canadian households – 1.7 million – spent 30 per cent or more of their income on housing and are considered to have housing affordability issues."

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities issued a call for a national action plan to end homelessness and deliver affordable housing this month. For the full report and backgrounders, go to: And now Alberta has launched a 10-year plan to end homelessness.

Affordable and appropriate housing has come to the front of the agenda for all levels of governments quite rapidly over the past couple of years. This increased awareness is creating opportunities and pots of funding. Now as a community we need to find ways to put our own plans into place to address the needs of lower-income individuals and families who need rental housing, supportive housing, as well as ways into home ownership. It's a big challenge, but if successful, we will have residents with more housing security, which leads to greater social security.

If you would like a copy of the housing report, contact me and I can email it to you.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Get blog updates

I've added a feature called Feedblitz so if you want to sign up for blog updates, it's easy to do. Just enter your email address in the spot on the right side of the page. When I add an item, you'll get a notification in your Inbox.

I like this feature because it saves me from having to remember to go and visit other blogs to see if anything has been added. Perhaps readers here will also like the convenience.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ice Conditions/Public Meeting

We all probably watch the river during freeze-up and break-up, but not nearly as closely as the team of people at Alberta Environment, BC Hydro, and Town of Peace River.

Due to concerns about the potential for seepage flooding in Lower West Peace, there is a public meeting on Tuesday, January 22, 7:00 at the Catholic Conference Centre. There will be representatives from the organizations named above and Alberta Environment river engineers will give a presentation about river ice and the science behind efforts to regulate it during freeze-up and break-up. It's fascinating science so even if you're not worried about flooding, you may want to attend to hear the presentation.

For further information on the situation, go to the news release and information package on the Town of Peace River website at:

The Alberta Environment website has great information on the ice levels, including photos that are updated on a regular basis during freeze-up. The most recent reports and photos are from January 16:

Learning About Emergency Management

Last week, three new Town of Peace River councillors (I was one of them) along with councillors from other municipalities took part in a 3 hour workshop entitled Municipal Elected Officials Course, put on by the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA).

The course objectives were to:
  • Be familiar with the context of disasters
  • Understand Alberta's Emergency Management Framework
  • Understand municipal responsibilities described in the Emergency Management Act
  • Understand the roles and responsibilities of elected officials in disasters
There is legislation that affects disaster management, including federal and provincial. The Alberta Emergency Management Act (2006) requires the local authority to:
  • Be responsible for the direction and control of the local authority's emergency response
  • Establish an Emergency Management Committee (this is made up of elected officials and they advise on the devleopment of emergency plans and programs and review the Municipal Emergency Plan--MEP--annually; in Peace River it's called the Emergency Services Committee and includes councillors Heinen and Hancock, with councillor Laurin as an alternate)
  • Appoint a Director of Emergency Management (this is the CAO or a delegate)
  • Establish an Emergency Management Agency (which operates under the Director of Emergency Management to conduct emergency operations)
  • Develop a Municipal Emergency Plan (I have a huge binder in my office)
It's good to know that Peace River has a plan and procedures in place and people who know what to do in an emergency. But the workshop brought home the increased responsibilities of elected officials and how important it is that we ensure that emergency planning, training and practicing receives adequate attention and funding.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


One of the committees I sit on is the Municipal Planning Commission, so I'm learning about subdivisions and other types of development. With my health promotion background, I'm always thinking about what contributes to healthy communities, and good planning can certainly be a factor.

During work today (I do a weekly e-newsletter called SEARCH Light for SEARCH Canada (; the newsletter archives are under the Resources tab) I came across this website developed by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, It's called the Healthy Development Measurement Tool and while it's geared to large cities, I plan to explore it to see if there are applications for a smaller centre like Peace River.