11 Strategies for Calgary's Climate Resiliency

Climate change can be felt in Calgary, and around the world. In Alberta, we’re seeing more occasions of severe weather from hail, droughts, flooding and fires in the spring/summer months, to polar vortexes in the winter. These occurrences have caused extensive damage to homes, and property, have affected wildlife habitats, and created hardship for farmers. There will continue to be enormous financial, environmental and social costs for individuals, communities and governments (not to mention the impacts to natural environments).

So what can be done?

As a City, we need to have an evolving strategy. Climate resiliency strategies are meant to reduce our environmental footprint, and also protect us against the risks of adverse weather events. Ideally they help us as a community towards outcomes of better protection of the environment, less waste, and cost savings, whether that be through reduced energy costs or preventing costly damage repairs after severe weather.

Like many of the larger, long term challenges facing the city - there isn’t one magical solution, but rather a series of initiatives we can take on. Here are 11 ways the City of Calgary can strategically address climate change for the city as a whole:

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11 initiatives for poverty reduction in Calgary

graphic showing image of helpingPoverty is an ongoing challenge in our city (and in most cities). It is a complex problem that requires an ongoing combination of both community initiatives and city wide strategies. Most, if not all of these strategies are rooted in developing, redeveloping and maintaining collaborative partnerships with local agencies, community groups and residents. A lot of progress had been made in reducing poverty in Calgary between 2015 and 2019, however the increase in the opioid crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic and other economic factors have led to more challenges for at-risk Calgarians. It is an issue that affects the whole city, including Ward 11 communities. For example, over 8000 residents of Ward 11 are in low income households, including 2085 children.

It is important that poverty reduction initiatives are proactive and sustainable and that they help make people and families more independent wherever possible. It is also critical that we also have solutions and strategies for those currently facing poverty related challenges (food, housing, health, mental health).

This list of 11 initiatives is by no means exhaustive - there are many other initiatives that are happening or could be implemented. This list was compiled as a result of community and social agency meetings I have attended and on research I have done:

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11 steps to improve Calgary's economic health

Blog image with people working on a projectCalgary has had its challenges with the economy over the last several years. In addition to the unique economic issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the energy sector has struggled with both low oil prices and a restructuring of the industry. Office vacancies are around 30% and unemployment sits at around 8.7% (May 2021). It is fair to say our economic recovery is top of mind for Ward 11 residents and the city as a whole.

As we work on our overall economic recovery, I think it is critical we take it a step further and focus on Calgary’s economic health. What is the difference? Economic recovery is about getting us back on our feet. Economic health however is achieving both recovery AND ensuring we have the tools, processes and plans in place so our recovery is sustainable and scalable. It is making sure we are well positioned in the future to deal with market changes and external influences that are beyond our control.  If we are in good economic health, we will be able to better weather crises, adapt and be nimble. This will allow us to remain competitive and deliver greater certainty for investors. It will ensure our business ecosystem is strong while also protecting our most vulnerable residents who are exponentially more affected by periods of economic decline.

So how do we improve our economic health? Here are 11 steps I would work to implement to start us on that path:

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Better project management for Calgary

The City of Calgary has a number of big-ticket projects at various stages of development. I get asked frequently, both at the doors and in the dozens of community/business leader meetings I’ve recently had, if I support these projects. While some people are expecting a YES/NO response, for me it’s not that simple.

Do I support investment in critical long term infrastructure like transit, the Downtown Strategy, and the BMO expansion? In concept, yes. We need to ensure the city has what it needs to thrive both now and decades down the road. These venues and services also actively support investment in our economy in a number of ways – present and future. I also believe strongly in investing in things like lifecycle infrastructure upgrades in our established areas. I believe the intent of these projects is good, and the desired outcomes are of value to our city. I also believe these projects are a step towards improving Calgary’s long term economic health and making the city an attractive place to live, work, and play.

Here’s the “but”. I have concerns with how we manage large infrastructure projects – whether it’s the Green Line, a new bridge or a large-scale renovation on a building (etcetera). Calgary has had a habit of going over budget with major projects and initiatives. These budget overruns often start happening before the project is physically underway. We design, redesign and scrap previously agreed on plans. We change scope and direction. Don’t get me wrong – in my own experiences working on large-scale projects I know sometimes plans have to change due to market shifts, misinformation or a change in mandate from stakeholders. Generally those reasonable expected variances are built into the plan from a timeline, resource and capital perspective. The difference is, if projects in the private sector followed the same trajectory and budget overruns that some of our city projects consistently appear to, there would be significant repercussions for those involved with the projects, and we’d see action taken to address the overruns much more quickly. 

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11 Ways to Make Ward 11 and Calgary More Accessible

graphic - 11 ways to improve accessibility. Shows illustration of people with a rand of mobilityOne in five Calgarians lives with some form of physical disability. As a number of Calgary’s accessibility strategists and consultants have noted to me, the majority of the rest of the population are “temporarily abled”. As we age, we are likely to face conditions that make navigating the world more challenging— whether it be physically, cognitively and/or medically. Even in our “prime” many people will encounter a temporary disability—for example a broken arm, a knee surgery, a cancer diagnosis or a brain injury.

Right now many Calgarians continue to face additional challenges finding employment, accessing services like transit and neighbourhood amenities, and participating in social activities because they live with a physical disability. When we improve physical accessibility in Calgary, we will not only increase quality of life for Calgarians, but also workforce participation, and economic investment.

This is why it is so important that we intentionally design, manage and maintain our city to include everyone. It is critical to also look at ways we can retrofit and upgrade existing services, buildings and infrastructure to improve accessibility, social inclusion and more.

Here are 11 ways I believe we can make Ward 11 and Calgary more accessible*:

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11 ways to improve inclusivity in Ward 11 and Calgary

For Calgary to be inclusive, we need to guarantee equal rights and participation of all, including the most marginalized. This is ongoing work that needs to be done and requires collaboration and meaningful consultation with multiple stakeholders. It is not a “nice to have” – it is a must have. Aside from being the right thing to do, there are several economic and social benefits to having an inclusive ward and city including:

  • Improved employment outcomes: Inclusivity reduces likelihood of adversity related to discrimination. It gives residents an increased ability to seek and find employment, reduces under-employment, and contributes to the economy as a whole.
  • Improved mental and physical health:  Inclusive neighbourhoods counteract isolation and increase community participation. This increases physical activity and helps with  mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, which can reduce burdens on the healthcare and social services systems.
  • Inclusive growth: By increasing workforce participation and equitable wages the benefits of economic growth can be shared more evenly across Calgary and its communities.
  • Increased workplace productivity: Diversity can be a source of creativity and innovation from a greater range of lived experiences. Inclusion creates a more positive workplace environment which improves productivity. Social inclusion can also lift profitability and help better serve multiple market segments.

So how do we accomplish this? It isn’t an easy fix, however here are 11 ways I think we could help make our neighbourhoods and city more inclusive:

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Being Non-Partisan

I was recently asked why I was going to a public outdoor breakfast where UCP MLAs would be in attendance. A day or two later I was asked why I’d attend a NDP pop-up park event.

I’m not partisan. I have voted for different candidates from different parties for the 28ish years I’ve been able to vote. More often than not, I have voted based on research about my local candidate rather than the party leader, although the leadership aspect has influenced my end choice. I have voted for people I believe are the best option, or in some cases have values that align best with mine on key issues of the time. Sometimes I’ve voted because they seem like good people and would bring a good change to our government.

Municipal politics are designed to be non-partisan. Councillors are supposed to make decisions based on the information in front of them, their experiences and expertise. They are also supposed to incorporate feedback from constituents and other stakeholders. Sure – everyone has their biases and some have stronger leanings than others. But the job requires councillors to be open minded, demonstrate leadership and most importantly – represent their ward as a whole.

As a prospective councillor, part of my campaign is about getting out and talking to as many people in the ward as possible. Regardless of background, political leanings (perceived or actual), or level of engagement. Why? Because if elected, I will represent everyone. Young, old, conservative, left, centre, rich, poor, dog lovers, cat lovers etc. Everyone. So to me, it makes sense that I go where people are, say hello, and find out what matters most to them. 

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11 ideas to improve effectiveness and efficiency at City Hall

Image of Calgary city hallThe City of Calgary is a massive organization that has grown exponentially over the last two decades, in a world where technology, processes and procedures have shifted a lot (let’s think about what the internet looked like 20 years ago, for example). I do believe there are many really smart, skilled people working for the City, who care about the work they do and want to see the city be as successful and adaptable as possible. However, there is room for improvement in some critical areas, which could really help streamline how we operate while reducing costs, and providing better transparency. This would foster more trust in the City, improving relationships between the City and residents, stakeholders and businesses. Change can be tough. Changing an organization as large as the City takes time, resolve, buy-in and collaboration between all parties. I think there is an openness to new possibilities right now that didn’t exist to the same extent pre-COVID. That makes this a great time to push for innovation, better accountability and a shift in culture at the City.

Here are 11 ideas to improve the effectiveness and efficiency at City Hall:

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11 things I love about Ward 11

There is a lot to love about Calgary as a whole. And even more to love about the communities and spaces of Ward 11. Here are 11 things I love about Ward 11:

1) The trees. I will always remember the first time I turned down the street I now live on and saw the beautiful tree canopyframing the road. I had looked at several houses that day in many neighbourhoods outside of Ward 11 – but none of them had the treed landscape of my community. It was a big factor in why I chose to move into the neighbourhood and ward.

2) Small businesses! We have some really great businesses in Ward 11, with friendly staff and great service. While there are too many to list here, some of my favourites include: Bitter Sisters Brewery, J Webb Wine, the Calgary Farmer’s Market (and their many awesome vendors), Dogma, The Italian Centre, Bella Roma (there’s a strong food theme here…).

3)The Calgary JCC (Calgary Jewish Community Centre). I joined the JCC in 2020 – and I regret not doing it sooner. Not only do they have awesome amenities that I use almost daily like their pool and fitness centre, but they offer a wealth of programs for all ages. Even during COVID they shifted many of their programs to virtual to stay engaged with their members. That was super important as they have a number of seniors who rely on those programs for connection, physical activity and social interaction. Also the folks I’ve met there(both staff and members) are all very friendly.

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Creating a competitive Industrial Strategy for Calgary

Picture of industrial building in SW CalgaryWhile it isn’t the sort of thing that would make the front-page news, Calgary has real challenges when it comes to our competitiveness in industrial development growth and attracting as well as retaining companies within the city. For reference, industrial spaces are used for things like manufacturing, supply chain management (think warehouses for retailers like Amazon and Sobeys), fabrication shops, storage and more.

Our neighbour to the north, Balzac in Rockyview County, has developed an industrial-friendly reputation in the province and at national and international levels. In the last 10 years, Balzac has seen immense industrial property growth, with a number of businesses leaving Calgary to move there. This year Rockyview County’s industrial growth will surpass Calgary’s. The ripple effect of this affects all Calgarians.

What’s the problem? Why aren’t we competitive?

Industrial property tax puts Calgary at a disadvantage in terms of getting companies to locate within the city's boundaries. While Calgary is competitive across Canada; in the region Calgary had the highest non-residential mill rate in 2020 at 0.019407. In simpler terms, that’s almost $20,000 in taxes a year per $1 million of assessed value. In Rockyview County it works out to about $11,000 for the same amount of space. 

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