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.