Thursday, December 20, 2007

Regional Board for Edmonton

The Journal is reporting some big news out of the Edmonton capital region this morning. Over the past while (ok, for just about as long as anyone can remember) there has been a lot of acrimony between the 25 municipalities in the region. Edmonton seems to essentially feel that they are providing a lot of services for the region while the new industrial developments (and the taxes that go along with it) were setting up shop just next door - in the counties.

Sound familiar?

Anyways, Premier Stelmach has chosen to step in and enforce a solution. It will essentially set up a governing board made up of the 25 municipalities. The board has final say in two very specific areas, the most important being land-use planning:

"The regional board will have authority over land-use planning and intermunicipal transit. Counties around Edmonton, two of which are in an upgrader-building boom tied to the oilsands, strongly oppose such a body.

But Stelmach said all 25 of the region's municipalities will be part of the new board. For a motion to pass, it will need the support of 17 of 25 municipalities representing at least 75 per cent of the region's population.

The structure essentially gives Edmonton a veto."

Full Story

It's going to be interesting to see how this works in actual practice and what kind of impact it makes on the region. It sounds as though Edmonton now has a say over where industry locates in the region and that could be big.

Of course the exact same issue of inter-municipal conflict has been brewing across the province so it's going to be interesting to see if this regional board is a sign of things to come for the rest of us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Budget Changes

At last night's council meeting the budget for 2008 - 2010 was approved by council. The DHT has the story here. This is the result of about three weeks of discussions where council reviewed all the requests and priorities from staff and community groups. We follow a process where if a council member wants to have further discussion on an item they "flag" it. The flagged items then come back for discussion at the end. This is where a council member can make their case for or against it and the advantage to doing things this way is that the non-contentious items are dealt with pretty quickly. Otherwise I'd shudder to think how long the process would take.

Admin put together a list of all the motions made by council that affected the budget. Some motions are to move items forward or backward in the plan (to do them sooner rather than later or vice versa) some are to fund projects (to commit money to doing them) and some are to unfund projects (to remove the funding and not do the project, project that have "undetermined" funding are the same).

So, here's the full unedited list of the motions that council members (including myself) made that had a direct impact on the city's three year budget:

Moved by Alderman Given, amended by Alderman Rice, Council fund the Grande Prairie Curling Club exterior painting project in 2008 the amount of $40,000 with $20,000 funded from the City and $20,000 funded from contributions.

Moved by Alderman Wong Council add to the Capital Budget funding in the amount of $10,000 in 2008 for repair of the Tennis Courts located at the D. Coy Armories facility.

Moved by Alderman Given Council include funds in the Capital Budget for transit buses in 2008 in the amount of $380,000 and 2009 and 2010 transit bus needs and funding be referred to the Public Works Committee for review.

Moved by Alderman Given Council amend the funding source for the Traffic Signals project at 100 Avenue and 93 Street to unfunded. (-$500,000 in 2010)

Moved by Alderman Given Council amend the funding source for the Traffic Signals project at 102 Street and 124 Avenue to unfunded. (-$500,000 in 2010)

Moved by Alderman Rice Council amend the funding source for the Traffic Signals – Resources Road and 76 Avenue project to unfunded. (-$450,000 in 2010)

Moved by Alderman Given the 102 street west side (117 to 120 Avenue) trails and paths project in the amount of $37,000 be identified in the Capital Plan in 2009 and the 108 Street (116 Avenue to Royal Oaks) trails and paths project in the amount of $90,000 be identified as in 2008 in the Capital Plan.

Moved by Alderman Blackmore the post and cable fence replacement project of $30,000 per year be identified as undetermined in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 Capital Budget.

Moved by Alderman Given the Website Redesign Project funding be adjusted to reflect funding in the amount of $125,000 over the years 2008 and 2009 in the Capital Plan.

Moved by Alderman Given Council fund the Coca-Cola Third Level Viewing area project in the amount of $120,000 from Capital Tax in 2009.

Moved by Alderman Gustafson the Dave Barr Building Expansion Project Design work in the amount of $750,000 from capital tax be advanced to 2010 with the remainder of funding remaining in 2011/1012.

Moved by Alderman Blackmore the FCSS Building Fire Alarm System Upgrade project in the amount of $20,000 be identified as Undetermined in 2008.

Moved by Alderman Given the Museum Expansion project amount of $60,000 in 2009 be identified as undetermined.

Moved by Alderman Given Council advance the CKC Ball Diamonds project to 2008 and 2009 in the amount of $30,000 each year.

Moved by Alderman Given Council fund the Morgan Meadows Park in the amount of $164,000 from Public Reserve in 2009.

Moved by Alderman Gustafson Council fund the Parks Operations Large Mower in the amount of $95,000 from Capital Tax in 2008.

Moved by Alderman Given Council include funds in the Capital Budget for the 116 Avenue Twin Existing Road project (Lakeland Drive to 92 Street) in the amount of $3,000,000 in 2008.

Moved by Alderman Given Council fund the Apprentice Plumber position in the Facilities budget in the amount of $25,000 in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Moved by Alderman Rice Council increase the Snow Removal Budget in the amount of $1,384,100 million in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Moved by Alderman Wong, amended by Alderman Blackmore, Council increase the GP Transit budget in the amount of $40,000 in 2008, $200,000 in 2009, and $200,000 in 2010 to implement new service in SW (Westpointe, Pinnacle, O’Brian) and implement new service in SE (Countryside North, Cobblestone, Signature falls, Creekside).

Moved by Alderman Gustafson Council increase the Development Services Budget to add one Safety Codes Officer in 2008 at $85,000, one Development Officer in 2009 at $66,000 and one Planning Technician at $56,000 in 2010.

Moved by Alderman Given Council fund the Grande Prairie Luge Association in the amount of $5,000 in 2008, $20,000 in 2009, and $5,000 in 2010.

Moved by Alderman Rice Council increase the Community Services budget by $5,000 in 2008 for the D. Company Armories towards painting the facility.

Moved by Alderman Blackmore and amended by Alderman Given Council increase the Economic Development Budget by $75,000 in 2008, 2009 and 2010 for staffing and support.

Moved by Alderman Given, amended by Alderman Blackmore, Council fund the Community Housing Facilitator position in 2008 in the amount of $50,000, 2009, $50,000 and $50,000 in 2010.

Moved by Alderman Gustafson Council fund the Dave Barr Community Centre concession staff in the amount of $10,000 annually

Moved by Alderman Given Council fund the Public Library operating grant under the Recreation and Culture Budget in the amount of $77,804 in 2008, $266,265 in 2009 and $470,000 in 2010.

Moved by Alderman Blackmore Council fund The Leisure Centre Casual Soccer/Pool staff in the amount of $4,529 in 2008, $11,858 in 2009 and $16,091 in 2010.

Moved by Alderman Given Council fund the Parks Operations Sanitation crew in the amount of $65,000 in 2008, $68,250 in 2009 and $71,662 in 2010.

Moved by Alderman Given Council fund the Parks Operations Tree Trim crew in the amount of $128,574 in 2009 and $135,002 in 2010

Moved by Alderman Radbourne Council fund the RCMP Executive Assistant in the amount of $51,620 in 2008, $54,148 in 2009, $56,885 in 2010

Moved by Alderman Given, amended by Alderman Wong Council fund the RCMP Typing pool in the amount of $360,176 in 2009 and $377,768 in 2010.

Moved by Alderman Wong Council fund the RCMP Specific Crime projects in the amount of $30,000 in 2008 and 2009 and $40,000 in 2010

Moved Alderman Blackmore Council approve $1,400 in the 2008 2009 2010 Operating Budget for the Grande Prairie Tennis Club for sump pump out.

Moved by Alderman Given Council approve funding of $1.25 per capita in the 2008, 2009 and 2010 operating budget for the Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association.

Moved by Alderman Given Council approve $35,000 in the 2010 capital budget for the Grande Prairie Live Theatre lighting upgrade project.

Moved by Alderman Given Council increase funding to $80,000 in 2009 operating budget and $104,333 in 2010 operating budget for the Seniors Outreach Program.

Moved by Alderman Given Council increase funding to $55,000 in the 2008 operating budget, $69,000 in the 2009 operating budget and $74,500 in the 2010 operating budget for the Volunteer Services Bureau.

Moved by Alderman Blackmore Council eliminate funding of $14,373 each year from the 2008, 2009 and 2010 operating budgets for the Glory Garden Out of School Care program.

Moved by Alderman Given Council eliminate funding of $7,000 each year from the 2008, 2009, and 2010 operating budget for the Grande Prairie School Snack Program-Families Eating Wisely.

Moved by Alderman Given Council eliminate funding of $14,373 from the 2009 operating budget and $14,660 from the 2010 operating budget for Big Brothers and Sisters.

Moved by Alderman Wong Council approve $91,594 in the 2008 operating budget, $200,454 in the 2009 operating budget and $200,454 in the 2010 budget for the Prairie Art Gallery operating grant.

Moved by Alderman Given Council approve $40,000 in the 2009 and the 2010 operating budgets for Nitehawk Recreation Area.

Moved by Alderman Wong Council approve up to a maximum of $9,000 in the 2008, 2009, and 2010 operating budgets for the Community Village pump out costs.

Whew! - long list isn't it? Well, if you've made it this far you probably need a break so I won't provide commentary in this post. I will respond to questions and give you a little insight on my thinking on some of the motions in another post.

City Manager Retirement News Release

The official city news release related to my post earlier....

News Release
December 18, 2007

City Manager Gourlay Announces Retirement

City Manager Dave Gourlay today announced his retirement from the City of Grande Prairie, effective March 14, 2008.

“I have been contemplating this decision for several months and feel this is the right time to begin the next stage of my life,” he says.

“I have enjoyed my time as City Manager. It has been a challenging and rewarding career. I will miss the great people who work with the City. I have enjoyed working with both this and each of the councils during my tenure.”

Gourlay began his term as City Manager in July 2001. He first joined the City in October 1989 and became Treasurer in January 1998. Gourlay came to the City after a long career as a financial executive, including 17 years with the North West Trust Company, serving as Vice President Branch Operations during his last seven years with the company. He became a Certified Management Accountant in 1974.

“I wish this organization much success in the years to come,” Gourlay says. “These have been exciting times and as a growing, prosperous community, there are many opportunities that will unfold in the coming years.”

Gourlay, an avid outdoorsman, and his wife, Marg, plan to remain in Grande Prairie. He has served as a director on the boards of Aquatera Utilities Inc., the Community Foundation of Greater Grande Prairie, Grande Prairie Airport, Swan City Breakfast Lions, and Centre 2000.

“Dave is a manager who I value greatly,” Mayor Dwight Logan says. “I will miss him as someone for whom I have great respect. He’s a leader with immense skills and a high level of integrity. Dave has been largely responsible for building this fine organization.”

City Manager Dave Gourlay Retires

There is a special council meeting this morning after Public Works committee at 10:00am. At the meeting council will formally and publicly receive the resignation of City Manager Dave Gourlay

His retirement won't kick off until March 14th but that seems like such a short time! In my opinion Dave really has been the heart of the city. His leadership really sets the tone for an open and flexible attitude and it trickles down though the whole organization.

I'm sure Dave would argue and say that it's really the day to day staff in all the service areas that are the heart of the organization. Of course he'd be right in saying that too but it does come back to what kind of leadership you have. There are places where people are scared of making a decision for fear that they'll be "crushed from above" - as far as I've seen this is not the city of GP. I truly feel that our staff feel empowered to make decisions and that that empowerment comes from the senior management, with Dave on top.

Over the past two terms I've really found Dave to be a unique individual who is confident enough to "speak truth to power" when needed and also has the tact to maintain a solid working relationship with people on the opposite side of any issue. Just as importantly he's always ready to share a genuine conversations city staff - from the temporary summer students to the Corporate Leadership Team. It's a pretty unique skill set that has earned him a lot of respect, not just here but with the administration of other municipalities and at the highest levels of the provincial government.

Dave is going to enjoy having more time to spend with his family. I know is "position" of Grandpa is very important to him and I'm happy for him that it can now become a full time gig.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Library Update - December 17th, 2007

I'm on the library board this term. Laurie Harrison the library director emails me these great updates on Mondays before council meetings. The idea is that I can share them with council, and the public during the reports section at the end of the council meeting. It just occurred to me that there are more ways to share info than at a council meeting, so starting today I'll pass on Laurie's library updates through the blog too.

Holiday Closure – The library will be closed December 23-26 inclusive and will close early at 1 p.m. on December 31.

From Dinosaurs to Mammals
The Canadian Museum of Nature Suitcase traveling exhibition will be on display in the Children’s Library from December 22 to February 6. Drop in to view this exciting display of a dramatic time in the history of the earth’s changing environment.

Library Membership – The Perfect Christmas Gift
A library membership is the perfect gift or stocking stuffer, especially those who are hard to buy for. If you were to purchase 5 new books, 3 magazines, rent 8 movies, purchase 2 audio books, attend one adult program and 3 children’s programs, and use 6 hours of Internet anywhere else but the library it would cost well over $230. You can receive all this and more for the cost of $15.00 per family or $7.50 single membership per year.

Give A Little
The Giving Tree 
Children’s Library will be accepting stocking stuffer donations for the Giving Tree from December 1 to December 20.  New items such as socks, toothbrushes, hats, mitts gratefully accepted. Items will decorate a tree in the Children’s Dept. and then be donated to Odyssey House.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Peace River Councillor Blogging

Leslie Ayre-Jaschke is a newly elected council member in Peace River. We've spoken over email a few times and I've checked out her blog more than once to see what was happening during the election.

After visiting so many times I don't know how it's taken me so long to do this but today I'm adding her blog to the Worthwhile Blogs section on the right side of the page.

Check out Leslie's blog to see what's happening in Peace River and experience it all through the eyes of a newly elected, first-time politician.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Centre for Creative Arts

Council has been getting a lot of emails this week about the Centre for Creative Arts.

It's all in response to thisrequest for funding to cover an operating deficit.

I'm always really happy when people feel passionate enough about something that they are willing to get involved and speak up for it. There's been quite a bit of this lately which is great - we've seen in this term a lot more than in the past two, specifically with Crime Prevention and with the Aquatics Centre.

One thing that happens sometimes is that people write notes without recognizing all the facts. That's ok because it's the job of council members like me to know all the facts. You (the public) are supposed tell me what you think and what you believe in, that helps me base my decisions on the desires of the community. This is the kind of dialogue that we should be able to have with our elected officials.

For my part of that dialogue I also like to be able to inform people on what is currently happening that they might not have known all the details of. My hope is that after we've spoken I'll know how they feel and they'll know the facts of what is happening.

So in that vein here is a copy of the note I've sent to a couple of the people who have written in support of additional funding for the Centre:

"Thanks for your note,

I've been a supporter of the Centre for quite a while so I'm concerned about it's security and ability to continue to operate, just as you are. Two of the specific areas where I've supported the Centre at the council table are;

• The renovation that is currently under way. This project is currently budgeted at just under $1 Million to retrofit all the mechanical and electrical systems, plus add an elevator for improved access to the whole building. The funding for this is 100% city dollars.

• The increased operating grant to the Centre in the 2008 -10 budget. I was totally supportive of moving the grant up from about $47, 000 to just over $80, 000 per year.

Additionally of course the Centre pays no rent to the city for the use of the building. The concept of course is that if there's no rent they will have the ability to put any money earned back into the operations. The city also does this for a number of community groups like the Live Theater, which has received no other operating dollars from the city (that I'm aware of) before this year.

So, just to be clear I believe the city does support the Centre. Of course if there is additional information to consider in light of the move to the old RCMP building then I'm happy to have it come forward so Council can make a decision. I want to see the Centre for Creative Arts healthy and ready to fill the renovated building with all the activity and vibrancy it provided our community before.

Thanks again for taking the time to write and support the Centre!
I'll take your opinion into account when we get to vote on it.
Bill Given

Friday, November 30, 2007

AUMA Convention - GP Pushes Internet Voting Forward

We've had good success with our resolutions at the AUMA convention this year. Below I mentioned our 911 funding resolution that was passed yesterday.

This afternoon I had the pleasure of standing up to introduce our resolution on internet voting. The resolution read;

"Now therefore be it resolved that the AUMA encourage the Provincial Government to amend the Local Authorities Election Act to enable alternative means of voting for future Municipal General Elections, including internet or web-based voting, while preserving the integrity of the voting process and protection for voters of the secrecy to cast ballots."

I spoke to the experience of Markham, which I mentioned here before. The vote was called and the motion passed - but with a surprisingly narrow margin! I think it was something like 118 for and 76 against. Regardless of the margin it is now the policy of the organization and they will begin working on the province to get this moving. Hopefully you'll have the ability to vote online soon... The next city election is in 2010, stay tuned.

Helen Wins Another One

Helen also ran for a position as a Vice President for the AUMA this morning. In AUMA there are two positions for Directors AND one position of VP for Cities Under 500 000.

In the VP race helen was up against Councillor Len Bracko of St. Albert. They've faced off before and Helen came out on top again!

AUMA Day Two - More Elections

Helen Rice is running to be re-elected to the board ad director for cities under 500 000. There are two spots open, and Helen is in a group of three.

One of them is Linda from Strathcona County. By the way I think its pretty strange that we could have someone from a county on the board of the URBAN municipalities association. Strathcona county is trying to play both sides of the field as far as I'm concerned.

The second is Martin Shields from Brooks.

The third is Helen and she is speaking now - got a good laugh from the crowd to start... Results in just a few minutes..

The directors for cities under 500 000 are:

Helen Rice and Martin Shields!

AUMA Convention - Day Two

The convention is starting off with a bang this morning. The fisrt order of business is to elect the executive including the president. Three men are running for that spot; Bob Hawkesworth from Calgary (the current pres), Ed Gibbons from Edmonton and Lloyd Bertschi from thetown of Mornville.

I'd like to see Lloyd win, Ed from Calgary has been pres for the past three years and it's time to have the leadership rotate back to a community other than one of the two big cities.

Both Lloyd and Bob have spoken and Ed is on right now.


In a couple moments we'll vote electronically and have the results...

The president of AUMA for 2008 is; Lloyd Bertschi!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

AUMA Committee on Environment

I'm in a session reviewing what AUMA has been doing on environmental issues over the past year. Here are a few of the highlights that I could capture for you:

- They are working to develop a Water Conservation Strategy with in concert with AB Environment and the AB Water Council

- They are promoting a strategy to remove government barries to alternitive energy in the province.

- Have provided input to AB Climate Change Action Plan Review

- They are pushing the province to develop and implement Green standards in the provincial building codes

- Working to deliver AB's Environment Conference in April 2008

There's lots more but I can only type so much with my thumbs! AB Enviroment is going to give a presentation now that I want to listen to - so I'd better sign off.

911 Funding Resolution

Just a few minutes ago our joint resolution with Edmonton on 911 funding was passed with a huge majority.

So, now it is the official position of AUMA. When I get to a real computer I'll give you some more of the details on the background around the issue.

AUMA Convention Day One

I;m on my blackberry today from downtown Calgary for the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) conference. AUMA is basically the provincial association for Cities, Towns and Villages. At the conference municipalities bring forward resolutions on different issues that affect the way cities operate and often these resolutions ask the provincial government to take some kind of action by changing some piece of legislation or program.

GP has two resolutions we are bringing forward:

The first is asking the province to add a fee to cell phone bills that would help operate 911 services. You already pay this on landlines but more and more of the calls are actually coming in from cell phones. Add that to the fact that more people are cancelling their landlines and moving just to cells (as I have) and you get a situation where there are more calls and less money to pay for the service. The city of GP runs the 911 call center in our area so this has a direct impact on our city budget - we can't do without 911 so we pay for it. Our resolution is being combined with an almost exactly similar one from Edmonton.

The second resolution we are bringing forward is to ask the province to amend the election law and allow internet voting in the next municipal election. I've posted on this before. I'm looking forward to speaking to the conference and bringing this forward.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

VSB Directory

I just received this email from Donna at the Volunteer Services Bureau (VSB) and I thought I'd take a minute to share it while council breaks for lunch.

The VSB directory is a great resource for knowing what community groups, social agencies and resources there are in the city. From what I remember you can find contact info for everything from the men's basketball league to HIV North.

Check it out...

"The 2007/2008 Volunteer Services Bureau Community Directories are now available.  They can be purchased at our office in Centre 2000 (11330 - 106 Street) for $10.00 each.  Our office hours are 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday.  Outside of these hours, they can also be purchased at the Tourist Information Desk in Centre 2000.  Their hours are 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, seven days a week.


Shipping to out of town purchasers is available, please contact the office for costs.


Please let me know if you have any questions.


Donna Durnford

Program Coordinator

Volunteer Services Bureau

#206, 11330 - 106 Street

Grande Prairie, AB T8V 7X9

Phone: (780) 538-2727

Fax: (780) 539-5986


City Budget Media Release

I thought since I had a short posting last night I'd also post this city media release focused on the budget process.

2008-2010 City Budget Deliberations Begin Today

Budget presentations for the City of Grande Prairie begin this morning at the Sandman Inn. Today and Thursday, capital plan items will be reviewed. There are a total of 217 individual projects being brought forward – 43 with undefined funding sources.

Capital items are non-recurring expenditures that can include larger scale purchases such as buildings and vehicles but also encompass functional and master plans and studies. Three days – Nov. 21-23 – have been allotted for aldermen to hear operational budget presentations.

Community groups will make submissions on Dec. 3 and 4.

A budget will be finalized on Dec. 17.

“During these presentations, aldermen are sitting as Council Committee-of-the-Whole and they make recommendations to Council,” explains City Manager Dave Gourlay.

“We operate on a three-year budget cycle, which allows for long-term planning,” adds Gourlay. “However, with our substantial growth over the past few years, Council will have a significant challenge dealing with the many needs of our municipality and the community as a whole.”

The City is operating with a $59 million 2007 budget.

I feel like I should note that the last line there is referring to the operational budget, as I mentioned yesterday the capital budget is in the area of $175 million over the 3 years. Also, City Manager Dave wasn't kidding - there are a lot of needs expressed in the budget, it was evident from day one. It's going to be interesting to see how this group on council responds to those needs and the resulting cost.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Budget Sessions- Day One

Today was day one of budget discussions, where council reviews the city's capital and operational budgets for the next three years. It's a big job, this year we have five full days dedicated to going over the plans and recommendations that administration has developed in their business plans. All the meetings are at the Sandman hotel down town, and the public is welcome to come and observe - although, I don't ever remember anyone coming who wasn't media or lobbying council for something specific.

BUT, you are welcome - we have chairs set up for you!

As I'm writing this It's getting a little late (I need to get to bed soon so I can be fresh for day two) so I'm just going to cover some of the highlights:

• Budget is broken into two parts, Capital (Buildings, Roads, Bridges and Vehicles we by for example) and Operational (Staff Salaries, Programs, and Vehicles we'd lease). Today was the first look at capital with operational to come next week.

• The years covered are 2008 - 2010 and over those three years the projected capital spending is $175 Million dollars!

• Funding for most of this comes from Taxes, Debt, Grants and different Reserves (pots of money, almost like a savings account, that are set aside for specific things).

• Some items are in the plan but are Unfunded - basically they are on the "to do list" but unless someone speaks up for them there isn't any money to do them and in my experience they never end up happening.

We go through the projects with a short description from the director of that service area. If a council member would like to change the status of a project, to fund it, remove it or change when it happens, we "red flag" it and come back to discuss and debate them later. The idea is that we can go through the whole list getting the ones that no one has a problem with out of the way first. Those that need a second look, positive or negative, are discussed after.

Below are some of the items I flagged today. With all of these I am hoping we can do them sooner, or save them from that unfunded/never gonna happen category:

• New buses to expand the Transit Fleet, improved bus stops and shelters and a transfer terminal.
• Twinning 116th Ave from Lakeland Drive to 92nd Street (north of Crystal Park School to the entrance of Crystal Lake Estates)
• Walking paths, (west side of 102 Street from 117 Ave to 120 Ave and 108 Street from 116th Ave to Royal Oaks
• Coca-Cola Centre upgrade, to add a viewing area in the 3rd level. (This is a big unused space looking on to both ice surfaces that could be earning money from rentals)
• Fixing the Leisure Centre Tennis Courts
• New Park space for the Morgan Meadows area

So tomorrow we'll go through these and all the other flagged items (there are lots) and we'll debate what should make the final cut.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Aquatics Centre: Maintain Your Holding Pattern

Well, we're just about through the first official week of the "holding pattern" that has been imposed by council on the Aquatics Centre and Fieldhouse at the CKC multiplex.

I know, I know - I haven't been doing a lot of blogging lately and so it might feel like this issue has just wizzed by. Well rest assured that even though I haven't been blogging on it people out there are talking about it. Since the council committee of the whole vote by a 5-4 margin to delay making a decision I've had about 45 emails. Some support holding off on the decision and other are saying "What the heck are you guys doing? Get it built already!" I really appreciate the input from both sides and I respect anyone who takes the time to let council know what they are thinking - no matter what side of the issue they are on. It is, after all, about the conversation.

There have also been two Facebook groups started in support of going ahead with the CKC site.

... I have to share one of the emails I (and the rest of council) received, the email was entitled: "Decisions by Facebook?"

"My 14 year-old has been on the receiving end of a Facebook blitz to “Build the Aquatic Centre NOW”. I am not sure who is behind this, but there are three issues that have to be explored here:
1. Plans for the CKC were begun 10 years ago, and the city has grown by about 15 000 since then. I think it’s called “change”, and it definitely creates a domino effect, so DEAL WITH IT, don’t ignore it.
2. Council should involve themselves in approval of projects--not design (unless of course, they have extensive building, architectural, and business experience.)
3. Trying to create a false impression of support (such as last summer’s skewed survey or the present Facebook panic) is totally undemocratic. The voices that must be heard are those of taxpayers and others of VOTING AGE. Clearly, a large number of respondents to an anonymous newspaper survey or Facebook request do not fit either category.

As a new council with a fresh, inclusive approach to the many issues we must deal with in Grande Prairie, I hope you can judge any of these “surveys” on their merit, and not bend to any contrived result presented to you."

Wow, ok.... First off I think it's great that younger people have a way to get involved in discussions about the future of their community. People shouldn't be barred from being involved important issues until they are voting age, after all young people are certainly a group that we hope would use a facility like this - their input should be important and they should use all available mediums to express their opinion.

Second, the plans at the CKC have evolved and changed over time as has Grande Prairie. The proposed Aquatics Centre wasn't designed 10 years ago - it's been designed over the last year or so with input from the users of the current pool and it reflects the best examples from other buildings across the province. The design of the Aquatics Centre is BIG, bigger than anything that currently exists north of Edmonton. It is built for the future of our region.

Finally, to suggest that people actively talking about issues and trying to round up support though a new medium like Facebook is undemocratic is like saying that using a photocopier to print up handouts and pamphlets for a cause is undemocratic. The way I see it the more people are talking, writing, blogging, Facebooking, texting or even podcasting about an issue the better off democracy is! It's not about the medium, it's about the conversation.

Whew, felt good to get that off my chest! : )

Anyhow, while I've been away from the keyboard someone has been actively blogging on the topic.... GPConservative has two posts here and here. The first covers a little perspective of what council members said during the election. (Most supported going ahead with the CKC project pretty clearly, although there were a couple who wanted to shut it down) The second posting looks at the Peace Country Wellness Facility Society and the impact they've had on the project.

I think I've been pretty clear in all my prior postings, I totally support going ahead with the CKC site. Changing location at this point in the project is not in the best interests of the public. If there was an organization that was going to come on as an equal partner an pump in an extra $40 million dollars - that might be a different story but my experience tells me that that is not going to happen for a number of reasons.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

For Goodness Sake, Slow Down!

You'll start seeing this new device around the city. The Public Works department has had problems with people speeding through construction projects. They are hoping that seeing what you speed is will remind people to take their foot off the gas pedal.

And if that little reminder isn't enough how about the fact fines are doubled when you speed through a construction zone?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Project Porchlight

Have you ever heard that saying: "If everyone just did BLANK we could save BLANK energy and BLANK dollars." ? Seems like you hear that often but rarely do you ever hear of anyone doing something about it. Well, it's going to actually happen here in Grande Prairie!

From the City's website:

"Aquatera, the City and the County of Grande Prairie have partnered with Project Porchlight to bring change to our community one household at a time. Project Porchlight will distribute one compact fluorescent light bulb to every home in the region.

How many bulbs is that you ask?
- about 17 000!

How much would it save the people of the region you ask?
- about $850 000!

Pretty cool and courtesy of Project Porchlight who are kicking things off at the Storm hockey game tonight.

If you or your group would like to help distribute these please, get in touch. [pdf download]

You can also call 1-866-585-6359.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Back In Action, Getting the Team Together

Well, council is back at it. I stopped by city hall this week to pick up the Orientation Package for council members. The package is given out at the start of a new term to give council members the general "lay of the land".

The Orientation Package binder that all new council member received contains:

The Strategic Plan
• Council & Administration Contact Directory
A list of the Boards & Committees
• The Mandates for all the Boards & Committees
Council Procedure Bylaw (C-962)[pdf file]
City Administration Bylaw (C-1012)
• Council Code of Ethics
• Conflict of Interest Legislation
• Resource Material for; Effective Meetings, Conflict Resolution, Team Building, ect.

On the cover it also has the schedule for the orientation process:

Friday from 6- 9 we'll have an informal meeting and dinner. This is really a "getting to know you" kind of session, which I think is really important given how many members of council are new to the job. This is also a chance for all the council members to share a little bit about what their priorities are and what they feel they bring to the job.

Monday there is a training session on the technology in council chambers, how to vote how to turn the mics on and off, it starts at 10:30. Then the County of Grande Prairie has invited us to visit them at 4 and we have to be back at city hall from 6 -9 is the swearing in session and official organizational meeting. The first part of the night is taking official pictures that end up in the annual report and on your council webpage ( - wear a suit and tie.) Then the first council meeting starts, members are sworn in one by one and sign the oath of office under they watchful eye of the city solicitor. (- pause when you sign so family can take pictures!). After the fun stuff council members stay behind to hear a little about the rolls and responsibilities of the job as well as to review some of the other info in the Orientation Package.

Tuesday morning from 10 - 12 we will be back at city hall to review committee priorities and some of the hot topics that the council will have to be ready to work on right away. This session is attended by council (of course) as well as the city manager and the four directors responsible for Community Development, Protective Services, Public Works and General Government Services.

So there you go, that's what the first week after being elected is like. Following all this committees start up as usual and then in November there are 5 days of budget sessions and 3 days of theAUMA conference in Calgary.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Thank You!

This will run in Thursday's Daily Herald Tribune but I didn't see any reason why I shouldn't say thank you as many times, and in as many ways as possible....

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Election Results

Last night was a wild ride and came with lots of change!

Congratulations to all the candidates! Everyone who ran deserves to be recognized for the commitment they've shown towards our community.

The turnout at the polls shot up to almost 30% which was great to see and I think that gives this council a very clear mandate to get moving! The full results are here but in short we have a new team that will take the city in to the next three years:

Dwight Logan

Bill Given
Lorne Radbourne
Dan Wong
Helen Rice
Gladys Blackmore
Alex Gustafson
Yad Minhas
Elroy Deimert

I'm very proud of our accomplishments over the past six years and I'm honored to have the community invite me to stay and serve for another three years. I've really appreciated all the support from the community and kind words from friends through the election but now it's time to get down to work!

I want to stay as open, accessible and approachable as possible through the next term so I plan on continuing my blog. I've found it to be a great way to get information out to the community and to elicit feedback on the issues. I think this feedback and discussion are vitally important to ensuring that the whole community has a voice at the council table so I hope you'll continue to visit and stay in touch. Election day is really just the start of democracy.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Aquatera Launches Waste Reduction Week

I just received this note about National Waste Reduction Week from Amy with Aquatera.

"It's National Waste Reduction, a national event recognizing the importance of waste minimization and conservation.

This week Aquatera will be celebrating by visiting grade 2 classrooms to promote the 3 R's!  Students will learn the importance of recycling and how everyone can make a difference.  Grade 4 students participated in producing the radio announcements this week.  We will also be holding our annual "Get Caught Recycling" contest this week!  You could get CAUGHT RECYCLING at any of Aquatera's recycling depots in the City and win!  Just visit the recycling depots between October 15 - 19 and watch for the Aquatera van.  Each day a lucky recycler will win great prizes - it really does pay to recycle.

Amy Horne
Recycling Manager
Aquatera Utilities Inc."

Its a shame that through the campaign some candidates choose to knock Aquatera's recycling efforts. Recycling has always been a big part of what the company does and I think that accurately reflects the value that the community in general places on good environmental stewardship.

Thanks Amy!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Where to Vote

The advance polls are over and Monday is officially election day in the city and across the province! The polls will be open from 10am to 8 pm and results will roll in quickly after that.

If you are unsure of where to vote you can check the city's webpage here for full details and a larger map but essentially this is what you need to know: Check the map below, locate which of the thirteen voting subdivisions you live in. From there you'll be able to tell which voting station from the list below you need to go to.

Voting Stations by Voting Subdivision

#1 - Grande Prairie Elks Hall: 10806 - 106 Street

#2 - Crystal Park School (gymnasium): 9351 - 116 Avenue

#3 - St. Clement School (gymnasium): 9636 - 109 Avenue

#4 - Trinity Lutheran Church: 10404 - 100 Street

#5 - Holy Cross School: 11065 - 90 Street

#6 - Church of Christ: 9606 - 92 Avenue

#7 - Army, Navy, Airforce Club: 10117 - 93 Street

#8 - Swanavon School (gymnasium): 8908 - 100 Street

#9 - St. Gerard School (gymnasium): 9724 - 88 Avenue

#10 - Kateri Mission School (gymnasium): 7906 - Mission Heights Drive

#11 - St. Patrick School (gymnasium): 7810 - Poplar Drive

#12 - Alexander Forbes School (gymnasium): 7240 - Poplar Drive

#13 - Aspen Grove School (gymnasium): 9618 - 63 Avenue

After you've voted you can look for results here or even watch a live webcast of results and interviews with candidates here . Information will roll in quickly after the polls close thanks to the city's electronic ballots which are counted extremely quickly.

And, if you are looking to have a little fun I invite you to join me downtown at the curling club. I'll be upstairs watching the results roll in at an all candidates party. I'm not too sure of which of the other candidates will stop by but I will be there and so will Mayor Ayling. To say thanks for the support we'll make sure there is food on hand for those who might be a little peckish. Children are welcomed and encouraged!

I'd like take a minute in advance to thank everyone one who has supported me through the last six years and in this election. I really have appreciated the opportunity you've given me to serve and be involved - I hope I've earned the right to do so again.

For those of you who are regular readers; I'm sure you are the kind of person who always votes. We need more of you so remind people during the day that they've got to get out. Tell them how easy it is, and tell them that they don't have to know all the candidates - they can just vote for those that they really want to see in. And, finally, when you head to the polls on Monday make sure you take a friend or family member that might not otherwise go along.

... and, if you've enjoyed reading my blog over the past few months I hope you'll pass on a good word for me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Candidates Forum

My friend Kyle was one of the 400 people at the Chamber of Commerce candidates forum on the 1st. Even better than that - he recorded the whole thing!

Kyle put in a little over time and was nice enough to pull out my opening speech, answers to quite a few public questions and my closing statement. Thanks Kyle!

Judging A Person By Their Plastic

My friend and fellow Grande Prairie blogger, GP Conservative, is taking a critical look at the election signs that have popped up everywhere. In fact, he's even rating them!

So far he's covered Lorne Radbourne, Dave Story and Yad Minhas in Part One and then Wayne Ayling, Dwight Logan, Dan Wong and Elroy Diemert in Part Two.

He hasn't made it to my sign yet but from his comments I have a feeling I'm not going to do too well. What do you think? How do all the election signs stack up to one another?

Who's on top the of ratings? You have to check out GPConservaive's site to find out.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Out of Town on the 15th? Advance Polls Start Today!

If, for any reason, you think that you might not be able to make it in to vote on the October 15th election day - you don't have to give up your right to vote.

There are advance polls and they start today! From the City's Municipal Election Information page:

Advanced votes will be held in the Catholic Education Centre Boardroom Lobby between 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on:

October 5 (Friday)
October 6 (Saturday)
October 12 (Friday)
October 13 (Saturday)

The address of the Catholic Education Centre is 10106 - 99 Avenue.

So, today is your first chance to vote. If you think you might have to work late, take the kids to practice, or get sick on the 15th you don't have to wait. Get out and vote today! ....or tomorrow.... or next Friday.... or Saturday.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Recovery Program for The Storm of '07

July 17th of this year a storm and flash flood shocked the city. The storm made for an incredible spectacle and some strange sights on city streets:

"In one unique case, police were called to a motorboat being driven in the south end of the city near 89 Avenue just after midnight. The boater, who said he was a business owner concerned about the condition of his business, was loading his boat onto a trailer when police arrived. He was warned about operating a boat on the streets of Grande Prairie but not charged."

It also left many homes and businesses with uninsurable damages. Immediately afterwards the city and other local agencies went to work collecting the data that the Province would need to decide if this storm qualified as a "Once in 100 Years" event. It did and so the Province has launched the "2007 Grande Prairie and Area Disaster Recovery Program".

From the Municipal Affairs media release:

"The 2007 Grande Prairie and Area Disaster Recovery Program ($700,000) includes the City and County of Grande Prairie and includes all municipalities that reside within the county. Damage occurred following a severe hail and rainstorm on July 17, which resulted in overland flooding throughout the area ...

Disaster recovery programs cover damage for which insurance is not readily and reasonably available. For example, insurance policies traditionally cover damage from causes such as sewer backup and hail; however, insurance coverage is not available for flooding resulting from water entering through basement windows. The programs include funds for municipalities, homeowners and small businesses, with the majority of the funds going to municipalities for infrastructure damage, emergency costs, etc."

For answers to some important questions for those looking to make claims check out the full release here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

More on Blue Box Recycling

At the candidates forum last night there were some questions on blue box recycling. I've posted on the issue before and I'm running a poll on the right hand side of the site. Aquatera has been looking at the considering the possibilities for recycling locally. In fact there is a lot of recycling info in the company's website.

The company's Solid Waste Master Plan has some detailed information on the different levels of service that the community could consider. These include a range of four options from maintaining/improving the current depot system all the way up to "Maximum Diversion". Each option will have a different cost above and beyond what we pay now but each will also offer the ability to divert more from the landfill.

From the Solid Waste Master Plan:

"Options for Single Family Collection
Four single-family residential collection options are presented for consideration, with varying levels of diversion potential, but also varying costs to provide the collection service. The four options are described below. For all the options, the Eco Centre and Landfill Drop-Off (for yard waste and recyclable materials) would be maintained.

1. Enhanced Depot Focus: Includes curbside garbage collection, seasonal curbside yard waste collection and depot-based recycling. In addition to Grande Prairie, this type of collection system exists in Lethbridge, Calgary, Medicine Hat, and Kamloops, BC. Under this option, the current system can be enhanced by expanding the number of recycling depots and using promotion, education and demand-side management tool such as reduced weekly bag limits to encourage waste diversion.

2. Curbside Focus: Includes curbside garbage, curbside recycling, and seasonal curbside yard waste collection. This type of system is in place in Red Deer, Hamilton (Ontario) and many municipalities in British Columbia including Vancouver and Burnaby.

3. Organics Focus: Includes curbside garbage, curbside collection of source-separated organics (SSO), seasonal curbside yard waste collection, depot-based recycling. We are not aware of any municipalities with a system currently in place that provides curbside organics collection with depot-based recycling.

4. Maximum Diversion: Includes curbside garbage, curbside recycling, curbside collection of source-separated organics (SSO), seasonal curbside yard waste collection. This type of system is in place in Halifax, San Francisco and several Ontario municipalities including Guelph, Markham, Etobicoke and Toronto.

Analysis of the existing program suggests that the current diversion rate for the single family sector may be as high as 33%. Further analysis of the four options indicates that there is the potential to increase single-family waste diversion by 13% to 23%, depending on which option is selected. The summary of diversion potential is presented in Table 1-6 below. [Current Diversion, Additional Diversion and Total Recycling Potential are all expressed in tonnes]

OptionCurrent Diversion RateAdditional DiversionTotal Recycling PotentialFamily Recycling RateNet Additional Recycling
Current Program3,123-3,12333%-
Enhanced Depot-1,2544,37749%13%
Curbside Option-1,5504,67349%16%
Organics Option-1,9455,06853%20%
Maximum Diversion-2,2415,36456%23%

So, that's some of the background work that the folks at Aquatera have been doing. Of course at this point the information doesn't include costs and that is an important part of the equation. When costs are available the thing the community, and members of city council will have to ask themselves is how much are we willing to pay to move from 33% to 56% diversion of waste from going to the landfill.

What do you think? Use the "Comments" link below to leave me some feedback.

World Record Walk Oct 3rd

Peace Country Health is inviting all of Grande Prairie to be part of an attempt to get in the Guinness Book of World Records.

I just received the email below explaing the "what" and "when" of the event. Its important to take a few minutes now and then to get active and a simple walk is an easy way to do it.

Thanks to PCH and their Health Promotion Coordinator Marcia Oliveira for organizing this!

The email:

" Have you ever wanted to be in the Guinness Book of World Records?

Here is your chance! On October 3 at 10:30am you are  invited to participate in the Walkolution!

Our goal, together with people from all across Canada is to break the world record for the most people walking 1km simultaneously. If you are wearing a pedometer 1km is approximately 1,250 steps.

Register now, grab your co-workers and go for a walk on Oct 3th!!!!!

See the website for more information, <>

Walking is a great way to be active and can easily fit into your day, here are a few ideas:

·         Instead of a coffee break, go for a walk

·         Have a walking meeting

·         Get out of the office to ponder an idea

Let's break the world record!!

Marcia Oliveira, MSc. Health Promotion

Health Promotion Facilitator

Peace Country Health"

Monday, October 1, 2007

Candidates Forum Tonight

Tonight is the Chamber of Commerce forum for Candidates for Mayor and Alderman in the city. There will be some changes to the forum for those who have experienced them in the past; In previous years the forum has been at the GP Inn - this year it will be at the GPRC Theater, In previous years the forum has been broadcast by Channel 7 - this year, I've heard that there will not be any television coverage of the event.

It's really a big disappointment that the forum won't be recorded. I know that a lot of people caught the re-broadcasts leading up to the election (it was shown at least a couple of times a week) and enjoyed the ability to hear and consider everything, even if they weren't able to be in attendance.

Other than those changes the major thing affecting the event is simply the number of people running for Alderman. Everyone needs to get a chance to do an opening presentation, answer questions and finally to close the night off. With 16 people in the race the openings and closings have had to be cut short. The downside to this is that it's very difficult to convey any real depth in a speech of answer to a question if you've got a tiny time limit to do it in. Hopefully the public will be following up with the candidates afterwards to ask questions one on one.

I'll be at the forum early and stay late to meet with people and answer as many questions as I can.

Here's the forum agenda and rules as emailed out to candidates by the Chamber:

5:45 pm – All Candidates Report to Chair for Speaking Order & Format
6:00pm – Mayoral Forum
7:15 pm – Break
7:30 pm – Aldermanic Forum
9:50 pm – Closing Remarks

There will be tables for candidates to display information in the concourse area outside of the theater doors. Doors open at 5:00 pm for Candidates and 5:30 for the Public.

Rules & Regulations:
• The moderator for the forum will be Dr. Scott McAlpine of Grande Prairie Regional College.

• The facility will be opened at 5:00 pm for the candidates and their campaign workers in order to provide enough time to get organized for handing out or setting up pamphlets and literature.

• No signs may be posted in the room, nor attached to any walls, curtains, doors, etc.

• The doors for the public shall open at 5:30 pm.

• The candidates shall present themselves to the Moderator at the head table promptly at 5:45 pm to draw for the order of speaking.

• The forum will be called to order promptly at 6:00 pm, and the doors to the room will be closed. Anyone arriving late will only be seated between speakers so as to keep the disruptions to a minimum. We will adjourn at 10:00pm.

• The candidates will be seated alphabetically at the speakers’ table, starting on the right, facing the audience. In the moderator’s opening remarks, candidates will be introduced in alphabetical order.

• Candidates will have (3 minutes Mayoral) (2 minutes Aldermanic) to expand upon their political platform. The format of the presentation is at the discretion of the candidates. No candidates will be allowed more than their allotted time and the moderator will ask the candidate to be seated.

• During the question period, questions will be received from the floor in written or spoken form. The public will approach the microphone, identify themselves and address a question to one candidate. The ushers will read the written questions and address to one candidate. The moderator will use his discretion in balancing written and spoken questions. In an attempt to keep equal responses, each question directed at a candidate will be directed at another at the discretion of the moderator. In the case of general questions (not specifically directed), the moderator will use his discretion in addressing it toward one or more candidates. Not all candidates will necessarily have to opportunity to answer all questions.

• The moderator will rule out of order any question (s) deemed inappropriate, offensive and derogatory or that would seem to attack the integrity of any candidate.

• The moderator will rule out of order any person who unreasonably attempts to use the question period as a platform for expressing a point-of- view on any issue.

• Answers to questions will be limited to no more than two minutes in order to maximize the number of questions that can be fielded in the time allotted. The question period will be limited to 48 minutes (Mayoral) & 66 minutes (Aldermanic) . Depending on the number of questions evident, the moderator may further limit response to less than two minute at his discretion.

• Candidates will each have (2 minutes Mayoral) (1 minute Aldermanic) after the question period for a rebuttal or to summarize their platform.

• The moderator will have final jurisdiction in all matters.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

$80m Facility, Without A Tax Increase

How do you build an eighty million dollar facility with out having to increase taxes to pay for it?

That's exactly what council will be discussing at 9:30 this morning; how do we build the Aquatics Centre and what will the impact be on the tax paying homes and businesses in the city?

Here's the details that are in the staff report to council...

$80m (The full Aquatics Centre, with the first portion of the fieldhouse)

Aquatics Reserve (Money we've been saving up for this project)
Aquatera dividend (from our Shares in Aquatera for 2008, 09, 10)
2006 Profit from Growth in the Tax Base (2008, 09, 10)
2006 Profit from Growth in the Tax Base (2009, 10 - in previous years was going to Library/Gallery)
2007 Profit from Growth in the Tax Base (2008, 09, 10)
Contributions from businesses, other municipalities & fundraising
2008 Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding
2009 Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding
2010 Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding

$41.135m Sub-Total

$39m Borrowing (Also called debt, or "the mortgage")

$80m Total

I know the picture isn't all that clear just looking at the chart. I know I still had some questions so I'll try to answer some of them in case you are asking yourself the same thing.

How much are the payments on that $39 mortgage? You'll have to increase taxes to make the payments won't you?

Well, no actually. The debt servicing (the mortgage payments if you like) are $3.1m per year over 20 years. The Profit from Growth in the Tax Base and the Aquatera dividend that we used above for construction come to $4.47 million per year. After construction is done in late 2010 we can use those moines to pay the mortgage and still have $1.37 million left over.

Ok, what about how much it cost to operate the building? I heard the Leisure Centre looses money and this Aquatics Centre is even bigger and more expensive to run so it will cost more. You'll have to increase taxes to pay for that loss won't you?

Actually the business plan for the building says that it will run at a loss of $1.31 million in the first year (that's the same as it costs to run the Leisure Centre), in the second it will improve and only cost $948,500 and in the third year it's practically break-even at $36,950. So, we can use that left over $1.37 million from above to off-set the operating losses in the first few years. The estimates of memberships sales we are building this on are pretty conservative in my opinion (3500 sold in the first year and through presales then 5150 in the second, 6890 in the third and 8190 in the fourth year).

The meeting is starting in a few minutes, I'll have to finish up later.....

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Safeway Looking to Give Away Money!

I received this letter by email and thought the best way to share it would be here.

"September 21, 2007

Mr. Bill Given
PO Bag 4000
Grande Prairie, AB
T8V 6V3

Dear Mr. Bill Given ,

RE: $3.4 Million Donated - Charities Wanted

Since its inception in 1998, the Safeway We Care program has raised over $20 million for local charities. This year alone the program presented a record-breaking $3.4 million to charity. We are now seeking more charities to support.

The focus of Canada Safeway’s 2008 We Care program is on children and families living with physical and developmental disabilities. Our goal is to raise money and awareness, helping those living with disabilities live life to their full potential.

This November the employees of each store will select their partner cause for next year's campaign, scheduled to run January to April, 2008. Consistent features of selected causes will be a large volunteer base to support three national fundraising days, clear illustration of how the dollars will be used, and demonstration as to how the cause is relevant to the community the store serves.

We are hopeful that you might be able to share the enclosed application with those in your community that may fit with the above criteria. More information and applications are also available at your local Safeway or by visiting Applications can be dropped off at any Safeway prior to the deadline of November 3, 2007.

Thank you for your continued support of Canada Safeway and our mutual desire to make this community a better place. For more information, don't hesitate to call us at (403)730-3380.



Joy Syratt
Safeway We Care Coordinator

The application wasn't attached to the email but it is easy to find on the Safeway website... actually to save you a little work, it's right here. So, if you are a charity that is looking for some support and funds for programs or services aimed at children or families with physical or developmental disabilities. Get your application in with Safeway before November 3rd.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?

The province has published the numbers on it's new Municipal Sustainability Initiative program (MSI). The goal of MSI is to give more money to municipalities and it is greatly appreciated...

... but ...

I'm at a loss for words when you see the unfairness in the way the money is split up. Thankfully, Kevin Crush at the Daily Herald Tribune is never at a loss for words - his article says it all. (The bold is added by me)


It means tens of millions of dollars for Grande Prairie but after taking a closer look at the numbers it appears to be weighted in favour of rural municipalities with a strong industrial base, such as the County of Grande Prairie.

Over 10 years, Grande Prairie is expected to receive $134.6 million under the formula which is distributed on the basis of 48 per cent due to population, 48 per cent to assessed tax base, and four per cent to length of roads.

That same formula will give the county $79.3 million.

But when the totals are broken down into pure per capita distributions the county, with its high tax base but lower population, over 10 years will receive $4,414 per person while the city will get just $2,680 per person.


This is not fair to Albertans who live in cities. This is a clear example of rural municipalities getting more and there are many examples of how they have to pay less. Here's one I've written about.

I'm not in any way saying that rural municipalities deserve less than urban ones, I just think we should all be treated equally.

Community Energy Plan

Last night at council ( webcast here - high speed internet recommended) I reported on my visit to Yellowknife for the Prospects North conference.

In my report to council I mentioned that there were some very good ideas at conference and that I would be bringing them forward for use in Grande Prairie. The largest and potentially most important of these ideas is the Community Energy Plan.

The City of Yellowknife had a booth at the conference trade show promoting their Community Energy Plan, which they've been working on for a number of years. I stopped by and had the pleasure of speaking to Mark Henry, who is the Energy Coordinator for the city. He explained the process that the community went through in collecting the data, developing the plan and how they are working on moving forward.

One important key was the broad participation from the community from the very start. Yellowknife's Community Energy Planning Committee was comprised of members representing; City Council (2), Power & Utility Companies (2), Environmental Groups (1), Chamber of Commerce (1), School Board (1), NWT Territorial Government (2), The Public (1).

The thing that struck me most was the poster that he had at the booth, which shows all the energy inputs for Yellowknife and where that energy is used. It's the City's Energy Profile. Mark was nice enough to email me the poster, which you can see below. (click the picture to see it larger)

Looking the poster anyone can very quickly see that:

- 60% of the energy used in Yellowknife comes in the form of Fuel Oil for heating
- The community spends roughly $57m on Fuel Oil yearly
- Fuel Oil is responsible for 71% of the greenhouse gasses produced in the community

Collecting this data is only the first step in developing a plan. The next part is deciding on actions but having these facts so clearly stated means that, wether your interest is in reducing greenhouse gasses or saving money, you know the best place to start is by working to find alternatives to fuel oil.

What would we find out by doing the same work in Grande Prairie?

I can see many ways that this type of information could be useful for the City of Grande Prairie, local businesses and residents. But, first, someone has to get the ball rolling and I'd like to do just that. Unfortunately, last night was our last full council meeting before the election. So, I committing that in the new term I will work to see the City (with community partners) begin the process of developing a Community Energy Plan.

My hope would be that the City would lead the process and invite members of the public, business and environmental groups to participate. The funding for the development of the plan would come in large part from grants like FCM's Green Municipal Fund with a smaller portion coming from the City of GP.

Monday, September 24, 2007

100 Posts

It's been six months since I started this blog. Over that time I've covered a variety of topics under the 45 different tags you see on the right side. I've invited you to come along with me Calgary for an Affordable Housing conference, to Yellowknife for the Prospects North conference and to meetings with other local municipalities.

Over the past six months the site has had 4800 hits from just under 3000 visitors. I've run four different polls looking for feed back on local issues, these have received votes from just under 200 people. This information is extremely valuable, for example in the latest poll, 80% of the voters told me that they'd be willing to pay for curbside blue box service.

The feedback has been great, aside from the 30 Comments related to topics discussed here I've had more and more people mention that they've visited and found the information useful.

Cultural Centre Construction Update

Before tonight's council meeting started I thought I'd jog across the street to grab a quick picture to give you an idea of how construction is going on the Cultural Centre (Library/Art Gallery).

As you can see the foundation is just about finished. The huge area underneath is going to be mostly parking in an effort to save some of the valuable green space at the Montrose site. If we wouldn't have had this we would have had to provide almost double the surface parking stalls.

If you'd like to read my other posts on the Cultural Centre they are here.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Just Like Being There

I thought I'd post pictures of the booths in Peace Country row, so you can see the presence that our region has here in Yellowknife. This idea of putting all of these booths together to make a bigger impact was started three or four years ago when the City invited a whole bunch of regional organizations to come together for the last Prospects North here in YK. Since then we've done the same thing at shows in Edmonton and Whitehorse.

The new City booth which is just being used in it's very first trade show. Notice the floor - it's an aerial photo of the whole city with markings showing how the city limits have moved over the years.

Right next door to the City is GPRC.

Down the row is the Town of Valleyview

... and High Level. With Mayor Mike Mihaly on the right.

Rounding out this side of the isle is an open booth which we turned in to a relaxing area that is promoting the Peace through the Branding the Peace Logo.

On the other side of the isle is the GP Chamber

Town of Peace River

In this booth the Mighty Peace Tourism Association is representing PREDA, the Town of Fairview, the MD of Fairview, Hines Creek and a couple of others.

... and finally, right across from the City of GP is the Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association.

So, now you can feel just like you where here with us in Yellowknife, promoting the Peace Country - you just didn't get to enter your name in for the door prize draws.

Don't Cross The Blue Line

Last time I was up here in Yellowknife I noticed the blue line at our hotel right as soon as I walked to the door. It didn't take long before I found out what it was. I thought this time around I'd grab my digital camera and snap a quick picture to share with you....

Here's the blue line at the door to the mulitplex where the conference is hosted. See it down there?

What's it for? Look closer at the sign next to the door.....

That blue line is the distance that smokers have to stay away from the door. Thats how smoking is handled in the NWT.

People You Meet At Conferences

The conference here in Yellowknife has been great so far. There have been some excellent presentations on economic development and on fostering the "Next Big Idea". I'll try to write about some of those later on but I wanted to post a note about one person I met at lunch yesterday.

I sat at a table with GP Chamber of Commerce President, Dan Pearcy and a gentleman named Kevin Shoults. Kevin is an exhibitor at the trade show, he is manning the booth for Trafco Canada, the company that is installing GP's new red light traffic cameras. It was a great chance to pass on some of the questions people have asked me since the units started to go up.

On Pictures - the cameras record video (things to cover your plate or make it blur in a flash won't work).

On Privacy - the cameras do not record the faces of anyone in the car. Cars, the overview of the intersection, and the license plate only.

On Accuracy - each "violation" is reviewed by a human three times. Once is a quick check to make sure that the vehicle isn't an ambulance or police car or the back end of a semi-truck. Next it's reviewed by enforcement to look at the actual circumstances of the infraction. They check the video to see if there were special circumstances - any icy road, or moving through to get out of the way of an emergency vehicle. Then it goes to registries to confirm the license plate number and finally back to enforcement to send out the ticket.

On Features - the video that is recorded can be set up to be on the web. So that you can log in with your ticket number and review the video yourself before deciding to pay or fight the ticket. I'm not sure if we were planning on using this feature but I think we should and I'm going to talk to staff about it when I get back.

So, sitting with Kevin at lunch was a pretty great example of serendipity.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Off To The Real North

I'll be getting up a little extra early tomorrow to catch a plane to Yellowknife for the Prospects North Conference.

From the City's Media Release:

City Delegation Prospects Future Opportunities

Three members of City Council and economic development staff are part of a Peace Country delegation participating in Prospects North 2007 next week in Yellowknife.

Themed The Next Big Thing, the Sept. 18-20 event is focused on the economic future of the North. It will examine untapped economic potential in areas such as mineral resources, power generation, communications technology, manufacturing, as well as cultural and environmental businesses.

“We need to continually explore ways to further diversify while supporting our existing economic generators,” says Jean-Marc Lacasse, City of Grande Prairie’s Manager of Economic Development.

“There is a strong foundation in our community based on oil and gas, forestry, agriculture, our position as a regional shopping centre and as a general economic hub. Now is the time to identify other opportunities for growth to complement these sectors.”

Prospects North is a great opportunity to connect with other community representatives from Alberta, the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, says Lacasse. “This is a key event as it’s the largest business and investment conference in the North, giving us a significant showcase for the city and region.”

Prospects North is expected to attract 500 delegates and 100 trade show exhibitors. A ‘regional village’ will represent communities and economic development agencies throughout the Peace Country.

The regional village is actually a number of organizations with booths, side by side by side making what basically turns into a Peace Country feature area. In addition to the City other Peace County groups in attendance will be:

Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce
Grande Prairie Regional College
Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association
Town of High Level
Town of Peace River
Town of Valleyview

It's a great way to sell our region. Myself, Alderman Croken and Alderman Heath are representing City Council at the conference.

Nomination Day

Well, today was nomination day for the October 15th Municipal election. All the candidates have submitted packages and we ended up with 16 people running for Alderman and 2 running for Mayor. Here's the alphabetical list with the candidate's websites that I've been able to find. This should be considered "unofficial" as candidates have 24 hours to withdraw their names.

Mayoral Candidates

Wayne Ayling

Dwight Logan

Aldermanic Candidates

Gladys Blackmore

John Croken
Website Not Available

Elroy Deimert

Augustine Ebinu
Website Not Available

Lorraine Ehlert
Website Not Available

Bill Given
Website ummmm - you're on it.

Alex Gustafson

Margaret Heath
Not Available

Danny Hynes
Not Available

Kevin McLean
Not Available

Yad Minhas
Not Available

Lorraine Nordstrom
Not Available

Lorne Radbourne

Helen Rice
Not Available

David Story

Dan Wong

In the County of GP there will only be races in four of the 9 nine wards. Everett McDonald, Leanne Beaupre, Jack O'Tool, Richard Harpe and Mary Ann Eckstrom had no one run against them so they all keep their spots on council without even having to fire up the election machine. Not so for the following divisions where incumbents will face challengers:

Div 2
Kurt Balderson (Inc)
Terry McNutt
Sharon Lynne Nelson

Div 5
Pat Jacobs (Inc)
Norm Hanson

Div 6
Dalton Longson (Inc)
Lois Dueck
Alice McKay

Finally, in Div 7 three candidates, Fronk Lowen, Andy Hommy, & Stephen Blum, will look to take over the seat vacated by the retirement of Brock Smith.

The last bit of election news that I've heard is that Leona Hanson is running for mayor in Beaverlodge. I know Leona from her days at SMEDA (now known as Community Futures) and I think she is certainly up to the task.

If you know of a candidate website that I have missed please forward it on to me so I can include it in the list.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Fight Crime - With Card Parties!?

The City of Grande Prairie and the Community Crime Prevention Committee are brining a special guest speaker to the city for a FREE presentation tonight!

Jim Diers is an internationally renowned expert in fighting crime by building stronger neibourhoods.

Jim contends that safe neighbourhoods tend to be places where people know and support one another. His work with the City of Seattle has helped neighbours build a stronger sense of community by facilitating more than 3000 neighbourhood self-help projects. These projects, including community gardens, murals, a revitalized business district, an Eritrean community center, and a gigantic troll have newly engaged tens of thousands of people with their communities and with their government. Not only have these projects transformed the physical appearance of neighborhoods, but they have resulted in greater safety.

If you want some great ideas on how to make your neibourhood safe make sure you attend this FREE presentation tonight!

Event Info
Title: Jim Diers:Fighting Crime with Gardens, Dragons, Trolls, and Card Parties
Start: 09/12/07 7:00PM
End: 09/12/07 9:00PM
Location: Golden Age Centre - 10222 101 Ave.

For More Info: (780) 882-7813
Note: This is a free presentation, but space is limited - please call to register

For more information on Jim Diers, please visit his Website


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