Cities in the Time of COVID-19: What Do Our Cities Need to Lead the Recovery?
A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation
1. Municipal deficits are structural, not cyclical
Canada needs to address the long-standing fiscal issues faced by municipalities; a situation that has left Canadian cities vulnerable during COVID-19. Cities across Canada are in deep fiscal trouble with their efforts to respond to the pandemic. As an example, the City of Toronto is losing approximately $65 million each week and recovering this loss in revenue would require a 56% hike in property taxes.
2. Cities are operating with both hands tied behind their backs
The lack of constitutionally appointed powers for Canadian municipalities has obstructed their capacity to deliver services in the best of times. In the context of COVID-19, municipalities are now being called upon to provide many of the additional services to help residents weather the storm. Mayor Don Iveson argued that cities are essentially operating with both hands tied behind their backs as they work to respond to the current crisis.
3. Defund the provinces and empower municipalities
Residents already expect local government to deliver many vital social services, such as housing and mental health supports. In many cases, municipalities are also going out of their jurisdiction to drive action on pressing urban issues. To meet align with these realities and resident expectations, Mayor Don Iveson called for the defunding of provincial governments and reallocating resources—and some responsibilities—to the local level.
4. There will be no economic recovery without cities
As the provinces turn their sights to reopening plans, Carole Saab reminded us that cities are at the heart of Canada’s national economic recovery. Municipalities must have a more robust revenue toolkit and greater autonomy at their disposal.
5. COVID presents an opportunity for greater collaboration
Carole Saab argued that COVID has presented the federal and provincial governments with an opportunity for deeper collaboration with municipal governments. With municipal governments at the table, Canada can develop solutions that are localized and place-based, and national in scope.
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to email@example.com with “transcription” in the subject line.
Mary Rowe [00:00:23] Good morning everybody in Edmonton and good afternoon if you’re in central Canada, or eastern Canada rather, and if you’re in western Canada or even west to Edmonton, then especially good morning. Hope having your cup of coffee as you’re watching us here at CityWatch. Really, really fortunate today to be able to have the Mayor of Edmonton and the newly appointed, in day four she tells me, CEO and president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. So you have Don Iveson and Carole Saab joining us. And we’re very fortunate about that. This is, I think, our fortieth CityTalk. We’ve been doing these two or three a week, on the odd week we’ve ended up doing four, to bring urbanists together across the country to learn from one another and share all the particular challenges that people are facing and things that they think are positive opportunities. But as you can appreciate, in the early, early days of these broadcasts, we were pretty seized with the challenges that municipal governments and municipal staff and agencies were facing because they were really on the front lines and continue to be on the front lines of the impact of the pandemic. And we originate these broadcasts in Toronto. We have listeners and viewers from across Canada and interestingly, more and more internationally. Be great if people can just check in on the chat and tell us where you’re tuning in from. That’s always good for us to see. And we originate in Toronto, which is the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, the Chippewa and the Haudenasaunee and the Wendat peoples. It’s now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. We also acknowledged that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13, which was signed with the Williams and the Williams Trearty. Sorry. So Treaty 13 and the Williams Treaty and Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas and Treaty. And I’m getting myself screwed up. And the Williams Treaty with multiple Annishnabec nations. And over the last several weeks we’ve been, in addition, acknowledging that we’re part of an urban system and urban fabric that has historically been extraordinarily exclusionary. It has isolated people. It has created the kinds of disconnections and dysfunction that are now becoming very, very, very apparent when we look at the impacts of COVID. We can see very clearly how they’ve been manifesting and how the built environment and bulit form is contributing to inequality in the city. On Friday last, it was one hundred days of COVID and CUI issued a report called Signpost 100. And it really, really clearly delineates how where you live and who you are is the most dominant factor for how you how you will have experienced the first hundred days of COVID, predominantly urban and your low income. Or as I suggest, if you’re in neighborhoods that are more isolated, your experiences are much, much different one than if you’re in an affluent neighborhood with good amenities. So these are really important conversations for us to be having. The country the country’s future, I think, hangs in the balance in terms of how our municipal governments are equipped to cope and going forward, do we need to make some really fundamental, systemic changes to the way in which we resource cities, municipal governments and the way that the powers and the authority that they have. So we’re we’ve made a priority on these sessions to make sure that we talk to people who are on the ground and who are very who can report to us and tell us really what are they seeing, what’s working, what isn’t and what needs to change. And so we’re appreciative to have Mayor Iveson with us to tell us about Edmonton and the particular challenges that you’ve been having, Mayor, through the COVID experience. So you can speak a little bit in general, if you like, about that and then we can drill down on some specifics, and then Carole’s going to help us understand how this is magnified across the country. And then I’m hoping that also Don happens to be the Chair of the Big City Mayors’ Office of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The FCM being the principal advocacy body that is working in collaboration with the Federal government every day, I know Carole is, and every night probably navigating how what what needs to be changing and what municipal governments support we need. So so we’re gonna weave this conversation all in. If people have questions please put them in the chat. Reminder that we videotape these sessions, we put the video up, we do five key takeaways, we put that up and we put the transcript up. So please feel free to engage in the chat function, but just know that whatever you put up there, unlike in Vegas, it stays there and everybody sees it. So enjoy having access to that conversation and I’ll keep track of it and I’ll feed the questions into our two guests. So Mayor Iveson over to you. Just give us give us Edmonton 101 through COVID, can ya?
Don Iveson [00:04:45] Sure. I’m so tired of this virus. My daughter, who’s eight, is looking forward to the last day of virtual school here in the next couple of days. And she said, Daddy, when is coronavirus gonna be over? And I said, well, it’s going to keep changing, but it could be a couple of years before things go back to what you’re used to. And she was like “a couple of years!” Which is, I think, how we all feel. I mean, that’s sort of the unfiltered eight year old experience of this, but for but for cities, you know, we keep joking, right, that, you know, something that happened in February feels like it happened a couple of years ago because so much has happened. So it really is a time of crisis. And apparently we’re wired to record much more information during, you know, from an evolutionary biological terms. And so it makes sense that that our sense of time has been distorted by this, because systems that we rely on have all been under so much stress. Front-line systems, distribution systems, food systems, household economies, small businesses and their workplaces and cultures and and and human capital. And so for cities, you know, we we felt the stresses in our own way immediately. But because local governments in particular are so rooted in the experience of our of our citizenry and and our local and small business in particular, that was really where our first concern was hand in hand with the safety of our employees. And so, you know, I haven’t yet reflected on sort of the stages of this crisis, but it sort of feels like I have enough distance after years of it seems to remember that at the very beginning of this, and particularly the conversations among our elected officials both at our council level within our metropolitan region where we had a lot of conversation going in the early days among the mayors and then nationally through FCM, particularly in my experience with the Big City Mayors, really our first sense of urgent concern was for vulnerable people in our communities, particularly those experiencing homelessness, those who had precarious employment, if they were lucky going into this, those who were precariously housed as it is and and our small businesses who just don’t necessarily have the balance sheets to deal with, with lock down forced closures. And so we spent a good part of our time, energy and advocacy on those causes in the early days. And I think that was the right thing to do and I don’t regret it. But we sort of took perhaps for granted that and we kept sort of flagging as our third message, yes, cities are going to be impacted by this and we’re doing the math on it. But in the sort of middle phase of this and in April and into May, we really started to get a sense of how serious, on a city by city, county by county, town by town basis this was going to be. And every municipality has been disrupted as a workplace and again, that employee safety piece was a primary concern for for all of us, I think. And so, you know, buying PPE or even trying to find it for our employees, were some of the practical early stage concerns. I think we are at about sixteen million dollars in costs. And that’s a three billion dollar budget at the City of Edmonton. So, you know, can can our rainy day fund accommodate that? Yes. But is it done training yet? Not even close. It may not have even really started raining yet if there is a second wave, not to be alarmist about it, but we really do need to take some scenario based approaches to understanding what our medium to long term exposure will be. Public health wise and fiscally. And it’s in those scenarios where this even goes on for a medium length of time, that the numbers in Edmonton start to yawn into the hundreds of millions even before the end of this year. And then for public transit, which I’ve been outspoken on, and perhaps stepped in it a little bit on at one point, because I was just looking at the transit numbers saying I don’t know how I can do safe restart of the economy with half the ridership and for a while none of the revenue because we weren’t confident about having front door boarding and those interactions with our operators. So we’ve restored charging fares now. We’re bringing in about 50 percent of what we would normally. We’ve got higher PPE and cleaning costs. We’re ramping up service to follow that rise in demand. But that gap, which is the structural deficit in transit, will last until there is a vaccine and a return to normal. And that could be anywhere from two to five years. So when you take that wedge of structural deficit or maybe it’s cyclical to COVID, one could argue, but nonetheless, I don’t have a countercyclical. It’s not like it’s going to spike after there’s a vaccine and I’m going to make it back. I don’t have the same fiscal…
Mary Rowe [00:09:57] There’s only so many rides you can take.
Don Iveson [00:09:59] Exactly. Exactly.
Mary Rowe [00:10:00] You can’t make up for all the ones you didn’t take. Right.
Don Iveson [00:10:03] And that was before a variety of the other pressures that we’re facing to the work that we’re trying to do to keep taxes down, the cash flow implications to deferrals, the uncertainty about property tax delinquency when the deferrals run out. It’s just a it’s a it’s a fiscal perfect storm for municipalities who don’t have the ability to run, even cyclical deficits on our operating budget, much less move into structural or long term operating deficits. We will crumble and this and the country will crumble with us if we don’t get the help that we need and we’ve been I I’ll just end with this and then happy to get into discussion, but the University of Toronto School of Cities send out a questionnaire a couple of weeks ago that said, you know, what have you learned most? You know, just like one open ended question. And I read that I started writing and about eleven hundred words of ranting later, I went back and looked at how long was this supposed to be? 150 words. Great. So I got it down to the last two paragraphs. And I still think the rant is good. I’m gonna shop it around eventually, because it sort of lays out all our historic interjurisdictional gripes it’s in our precarious constitutional circumstance. But it really comes down to this, which is that, you know, we’ve been arguing for a really long time that Canadian cities are not set up to drive stronger economic outcomes, much less stronger social outcomes and public health outcomes, much less the strong environmental outcomes that we all need and and that we really do need a different place in the union and a different set of tools to really deliver on the kind of aspirations that mayors are. These are some of my campaign pledges I keep in my office here, some of the work that cities are trying to do to lead, particularly where provinces are inconsistent at best, and despite the federal government’s aspirations in these areas, we are their local partners, but we’re just not set up to succeed. And the fracus over getting us even relief right now when, you know, in the U.S. on these transit issues alone, U.S. Congress, not known for doing things quickly, pushed out twenty five billion dollars worth of aid for public transit in American cities within the first month of the crisis before we even made our ask. And here we are into the fourth month of the crisis and we’re still playing jurisdictional hot potato between the provinces and the Fed. So that just illustrates part of the precariousness of our toolkit and the precariousness of our enabling powers and place in the union. And I said the closing thought really was, you know, we’ve been very polite about this for a long time. And and we’ve really been doing this with one hand tied behind our backs and I think, you know, my two takeaways are that we’ve been far too polite and in our modest Canadian way, and we’ve actually had two hands tied behind our back this whole time. And that is not going to build a stronger, more resilient, healthier, more prosperous, more just and inclusive and more environmentally sustainable country, city by city, town by town, county by county. So this crisis has laid bare an issue that activists and advocates like yourself Mary and leaders like Carole have been and mayors across the country for a generation have been have been outlining. And so it’s not just about a bailout for transit and it’s not just about some stimulus money. It really is time to have a tough conversation about whether we want this country to succeed by leaning into it the capacity of its local governments and particularly its big cities to drive those better policy outcomes, particularly on the margins of inclusion, which you opened with, and that’s very timely and I look forward to getting into that. But I’ll stop there because like I said, it turns into an eleven hundred word rant really easily so.
Mary Rowe [00:13:58] Thanks, Mayor. Before before, I mean, I hear you saying no more Mr. Nice Guy. OK then. And I want to I want to turn the table over to Carole in a sec. But before we do, just level set for us a minute, if you can, Mayor Iveson. So in Edmonton and in this in the municipality you’ve laid off how many?
Don Iveson [00:14:14] Were down 40. We’re we’re down forty two hundred staff, including our conference facilities, public libraries, some of our arm’s length civic institutions. But we’re down about twenty six hundred civic staff proper. And we’ve also avoided hiring a good number of seasonal staff. So the grass is about this long in many parts of Edmonton and Edmontonians are furious about that.
Mary Rowe [00:14:37] We were expecting on the chats some people who we’re going to express their outrage about the grass. We haven’t seen it yet, but now that we’ve given them a chance, I’m sure someone’s going to post it. So what percentage of your workforce, can you just give us roughly, what have you had to let go or furlough?
Don Iveson [00:14:51] Sure. So I don’t have the seasonal number handy and we’re actually bringing a few people back to mow some grass because it’s so bad. But we’re still within the constraints. We can’t restore the normal service level people are used to. So we’re going from 21 day mowing cycles, which is sort of prairie style to 14 day and so the usual seven. So just to keep a lid on the dandelions really at this point. So so we’re down thousands of employees. We have no capacity to bring them back, even though government of Alberta’s relaunch includes opening gyms and recreation centers, at this point I don’t have the budget to bring people back, much less ramp up transit to the level of service to provide the spacing that would be optimal from a public health point of view as people come back to work. So it’s one hundred and seventy to two hundred and sixty million dollar budget problem on a three billion dollar operating budget just for this year alone. If Twenty Twenty one is the same or worse, it will break us or I mean, maybe not like I can liquidate a whole bunch of our endowments. I can I can start to sell the farm. And the government of Alberta has said, well, you know, if you really liquidated everything and said, well, have you liquidated the Heritage Fund yet? I mean, there is an endowment that Peter Lougheed put in place that provides as an investment fund money. And so when when we’re being asked that question by our finance minister, those are clearly desperate times. And you can you can start to neuter your municipalities if you want, and get them to start selling off revenue generating financial assets to paper this over. Fiscally, that’s way worse than borrowing it at next to zero percent interest, because I make six or eight points a year off an eight hundred million dividend that I could liquidate and then I’d have 40 million dollars less for infrastructure. So unless they’re gonna talk me up on infrastructure by 40 million, we’re actually going to contract the economy over time by doing that.
Mary Rowe [00:16:45] And I guess I’m going to go to Carole now. But I guess the question, too, is all these cuts in services and this inability to be able to respond. The question is, does it actually fundamentally make people less safe? And are we, in fact, going to then incur other costs because more people will get sick or more people will be in trouble and other kinds and the services aren’t they. So anyway, Carole, let’s hear from you in terms of the broader perspective, because you have thousands of members and you’re hearing from them all the time. So fill out, if you can, where Mayor Iveson started.
Carole Saab [00:17:16] Yeah. I didn’t I didn’t get a memo really that I was supposed to be good cop. Normally I’m bad cop, so I think we’re going to be bad cop and bad cop here today. You need good cop infusion. But I think it’s just it’s just a reflection of really how how frustrated urbanists are and mayors are across the country that the situation is as dire as it is and has been left to stagnate in this in this kind of a scenario for as long as it has. And there are, as the mayors outline, some very real consequences. You just heard a little bit about the situation in Edmonton and across the country, in cities across the country and communities across the country at a varied scale. It is it is equally bad. You know, you’re looking at Toronto numbers in some of the best case scenarios are about sixty five million dollars of shortfall per week, which is a significant part of the budget. 10 to 15 million in Calgary. 7 in Ottawa. These are huge numbers and those are per week numbers. And so it’s a real significant hit and all of this at a time. You know, I really couldn’t agree more with the statement that, you know, we’re actually going for it with two hands tied behind our back, because not only is it a shortfall of such a significant magnitude, a lot more is being asked of cities and is needed of cities in this context, you know. At the earliest, I was thinking back when when you were talking earlier about how this started and at the at the outset of this, our work at FCM and the work of the cities, our work was to help them in their work, which was really about quick emergency relief. Is there enough PPE? How do we in our community and our city? Is it getting to the right places? How are we are we setting up our arenas to be temporary shelters? How we’re going to make sure the vulnerable populations are separated? All of these very real things that are critical sort of safety issues and crisis management issues that that mayors and cities and councilors across the country were thrust into. You add to that things like transit and what’s required to make riding transit safe right now and so on and so forth at a time when you’re also being hit with these kinds of significant shortfalls and it’s I mean, it’s really a recipe for disaster without without an intervention. And I think the frustration stems from a longstanding stress frustration that the Mayor’s eleven hundred rant would surely cover, which is that it really is not a tenable system. And this isn’t that we’re not set up to succeed, as he said, and nor are we set up to recover. You know, and you look at a lot of conversation has been happening around this. And, you know, the mayors aren’t pleased to be having to be standing here basically, you know, hands out saying, please, other orders of government help us. But there is no there is no alternative. I mean, the property tax hikes, which is the tool that and the lever that cities in Canada have to use are just untenable. In Toronto it would be a fifty six percent estimated property tax hike to be able to cover the operating shortfalls. And you tell me who, who, who what citizen has 56 percent more right now to be able to contribute to this. And so it’s not a tenable situation. And without ultimately answering a bigger question around: how do we want to rebuild? Do we want cities that are more resilient, that are less vulnerable in times of crises that can actually lead in in a in a sort of forward looking way out of moments like this? Well, then we’ve got to tool them differently. The problem is and I think the frustration is that that’s a very hard conversation to have when you’re drowning. And and really that’s what’s happening right now. We’re asking mayors who are trying to do everything they can, stave off cuts, figure out how to make their services work with less, to also then take on a PR battle, take on an advocacy battle, take on an intergovernmental battle to change what has been a really flawed conversation for a very long time. And that’s why I’m really at FCM. We’ve been very focused on one, how can we support the mayors across the country and in their work right now, but how how can we enable this conversation and use this as a window for the transformation that needs to be? Because I don’t think there’s any denying that the system’s broken, even for folks who are saying, you know, we have to play within the rules. It’s a very hard argument to make that the rules make a lot of sense right now. And so I think this is where we are. And as you can tell, you know, you’ve got two bad cops on the line because it’s a very frustrating scenario for cities across the country.
Mary Rowe [00:21:52] Well, bad cops, good cops, it’s all fine. We we have done. When when COVID first hit, you know, we had started to talk about it as a particle accelerator, that everything that was dysfunctionally and Don, you were saying, you know, how many months ago was it, it feels like years. You know, this notion that time has just marched so quickly on and every dysfunction that existed in urban life before is just magnified and blown out. So whether that’s homelessness, vulnerable populations, systemic racism, all of this stuff has now really surfaced, the disconnection with neighborhoods and local economies, for instance. But also just what you’re suggesting, there were already governance challenges. You didn’t have the authority that you need to beforehand and you certainly didn’t have the resourcing for which you could be held accountable. And I think that that’s this is where I think we’re in an interesting moment in Canada, because why is it okay to starve municipal governments of money for months? You know, it’s not like any municipal employee when they were on day seven and they were having to suddenly say, I’ve got to make that arena into a temporary hospital. It’s not like any one of them would say, no, no, wait a sec that’s not my jurisdiction or no, no, no, I don’t have a budget to do that. You know, the rubber has hit the road with all of you folks. When when COVID first hit, we we put up two platforms immediately to try to showcase how municipal governments are going to be responding. So citywatchcanada.ca, which hundreds of hundreds of volunteers continue to populate, I’m sure many of them are on the chat today, it was a way to sort of signal here’s what every municipalitiy, sixty two municipalities are doing. They’ve declared a state of urgency, they’re converting their transit lines, whatever it is. And at the same time, we did one called CityShare Canada because we wanted to show all the smart ways that people were going to improvise in their communities, libraries, business owners, neighborhoods, all that stuff, because we just knew that it would all fall to the local, ultimately. And so nobody spent 10 seconds hesitating. We all did it. And we all expected you to do it. And what I’m curious about is you’re saying we didn’t have the money. We don’t have the money to sustain this. How come in the in the political public sphere people don’t panic about that? Carole what do you think? Why are they taking so long? Is it because is it because people take it for granted? Do you think they take for granted the services and they don’t really know who provides them?
Carole Saab [00:24:25] I think there’s. I think it’s largely that. I think for for an average Canadian, you know, how there is a basic understanding of sort of some core municipal services. But I don’t think the extent of sort of the download that has happened over over the previous decades is really fundamentally understood every day. And it’s it’s a you know, once you’re in the in the argument of it’s our jurisdiction versus not our jurisdiction and who’s paying for what, it’s a losing battle. And so I think what you what you see and you’re right in your assessment that ultimately it does fall to local government and there is that expectation that there are going to be there, but there isn’t a corresponding sort of tooling up of of local governments to be able to respond in these scenarios. And I would say the other piece of this is, is the expectations continue. Right. We’re going to have to have a pretty big economic recovery coming out of this. It’s going to have to be driven through local governments, through cities in particular. And how is that supposed to happen if cities are hobbled in in a really significant way? If they’re still trying to just provide core services? If transit is taking significant cuts? It really isn’t. And so the message we’ve been trying to use this moment in time to sort of awaken in the consciousness of Canadians, but also really with decision makers, is that there isn’t going to be an economic recovery. There isn’t going to be a safe restart if cities aren’t enabled with with greater tools. And in the immediate. If there isn’t an immediate sort of financial backstop here so that we can we can move forward.
Mary Rowe [00:26:00] Mayor Iveson, what do you think about that? I mean, you’ve been at this for a long time, even though you were a young man. You are a seasoned negotiator, I think, in terms of your tenure as a municipal leader. And I’m just interested that. Is it is it that people don’t put enough heat on their provincial and federal officials to figure this out? Any other sector. I don’t know. Do you think if the agriculture sector had freaked out two months ago and said there will be no planting if we don’t have support? I don’t. Would it to be allowed to go on for two months. What do you think, Mayor Iveson? What’s your perspective?
Don Iveson [00:26:38] I think it’s a few different factors. One I mentioned is sort of this polite Canadian tendency towards conflict diversion. And that’s very much my personality, too. I’m like, let’s work this out and find a win win kind of integrated leadership approach. And we keep doing that. And we kind of got there in Alberta for a while with the city charters that Edmonton and Calgary had, which we lost last fall. And they had robust revenue sharing. They were protected in legislation. As the economy grew in Alberta, we would get a piece of that as a sort of open ended infrastructure transfer. There was permanent transit money before the feds. All that’s gone on. The escalator mechanism has been cut in half. The base has been cut in half, has been reduced substantially from what was negotiated. So I was I was a good negotiator and I got it legislated. And and it was a campaign promise, by the way, of the of Jason Kenney’s government that they would keep it. So in a platform, in law, after asking really nicely for about five years and it’s gone.
Mary Rowe [00:27:48] Can we unpack it a bit, Mayor Iveson, because I think the dilemma there is part of me, as a regular person wants to say, why are cities being victim to partisan politics at all? And is there no way to create structures within municipal governments because you actually don’t have political parties. I guess in one jurisdiction there are political parties associated with municipal governments, but you’re generally multi partizan at the local level. And why is it we can’t create a structure that it wouldn’t matter which party took over the provincial and federal level, the city would still be intact?
Don Iveson [00:28:21] Well, you would need. You would need true city charters. And there’s been a conversation about this in Toronto for a long time, which and they would have to be constitutionally protected. And I know people don’t want to talk about the Constitution as the third rail of Canadian politics, but because it is because because it is, we can’t we can’t fix this. Like I had it as insulated as you could get it. And it’s gone. So short of it being protected with constitutional level protection, cities will always be vulnerable to the whims of chiefly provincial, but also, to some degree, federal government. There’s a reason why other countries have gone a different direction and leaned into their cities. Those countries are whipping our country’s butt economically, socially in some cases, environmentally in a lot of cases.
Mary Rowe [00:29:04] Which countries are you thinking of?
Don Iveson [00:29:06] Oh, I’m thinking of a lot of unitary states that just, because of their history, have nothing to deal with but a national government that sets strategy and then through evolution. Lots of lots of countries in Asia, the tiger countries tend to work this way. China is not a popular example for a lot of different ways, but they have elevated their large cities to a subnational unit or province level status. Their mayors are governors and have integrated control, and there’s a lot of other problems with their governance system. Let me be clear, from human rights to surveillance and other issues, but which probably just got surveilled but forgot it. The issue is that the countries that are leaning into their cities are doing marvelously well. Lots of cities in Europe just traditionally had this and it was actually I am reminded of something the Mayor of Hamburg said and the Mayor of Strasbourg told this story at a at an event I was at, a Mayors for Climate event, that there was all this question with Brexit about, you know, what was this going to mean for cities in Europe? And the mayors were sort of hemming and hawing. And the Mayor of Hamburg said, look, Hamburg’s been here for a thousand years. Germany’s one hundred and some years old idea. Germany is going to come and go, states are going to come and go, europe’s gonna come and go. Hamburg is not going anywhere. So these are the basic building blocks of our civilization, have been for five thousand years, and yet we don’t build our governance around making sure they succeed. And and you could do…
Mary Rowe [00:30:40] I’m trying to get at why. I mean, you know, I hear you because cities are place based. They’re rooted in a place. You can’t. You can’t move them off their place, as you suggest. Hamburg, Rome, all the famous ones. You’re in a. Your provicial jurisdiction is a pro-growth jurisdiction. And the growth, presumably, in Alberta is coming from Edmonton and Calgary. What is it about that value proposition that is up for debate, regardless of which government forms in your province?
Don Iveson [00:31:10] Well, it’s it’s this urban rural divide that keeps getting driven. I think there’s a strong American influence to that narrative. And yet, FCM has proven time and time again that that we are most effective when, you know, cities are supporting the call for broadband and rural areas. And our rural neighbors understand the value of public transit for labor mobility. And so their kids, when they’re at university, can can come and go when they’re in the town for the services that they depend on and that there is an interdependency to an extended metropolitan economy from, you know, from field to fork and table, right, across all our different sectors of our economy. And so to the extent that politics now where it is partizan is increasingly wedged in a lot of different directions, demographically and geographically, that force of division is very different from how city halls work, city politics works where because I don’t have a political party, I have to build a coalition all the time on every issue to get things done, which drives consensus, which drives win win thinking, drives, not perfect results, but I think net better results and also stability over time versus, you know, overcorrection that you find in the partisan polarized system. So I think we should be devolved more. But why doesn’t it happen? Because, quite frankly, if you’re a province and you have all of this authority and all of this money and even the federal government plays into it by giving them fifty five billion dollars a year in transfers, plus another 20 billion dollars a year in equalization and stabilization funding. So, I mean, I shouldn’t say this, but I think in the context that, but I’m going to, but in the context of all of the pressure that cities are facing to come up with a more thoughtful and compassionate response than reactive policing to complex social issues. I deigned to say in in the policy conversation that has come to us around community safety and policing and social justice and inclusion and systemic racism, that so many of the levers that need to be pulled so that we can reduce the amount of emphasis we have on policing and reactive approaches to complex social issues, including systemic racism, requires the eight levers that provinces pull constitutionally. I pull two. There’s a big fulcrum now on these levers, which is what are we going to do about systemic racism? But, you know, activists in Edmonton are saying defund the police so you can fund mental health, provincial responsibility, housing, provincial responsibility, addiction support, provincial responsibility. And I’m already weighing into a bunch of those areas. I’m building housing way outside my jurisdiction because the province won’t. Because we believe it’s the right thing to do. And we believe it will reduce demand for policing, but it will also reduce demand, orders of magnitude, more dollars on on front line health care and corrections, which are provincial cost centers. So we can we can make this logic to our public. But if you’re the province, why would you give up any of that power?
Mary Rowe [00:34:19] I want to go to Carole.
Don Iveson [00:34:20] Well, I just want to say is that I think, that I shouldn’t, is that the conversation we should be having is about defunding provinces so that we can fund cities to do the things that citizens are demanding we do more effectively and more justly on their behalf.
Mary Rowe [00:34:35] We have people on social media who track these things, at #citytalk, and then we publish 5 take aways. And I can imagine the teams looking at this today are just thrilled that you just said defund provinces, because it’s going to be a fabulous soundbite to get people thinking. And I was just about to say Mayor Saab. What the hell. Carole, can you can you talk a little about the rural urban divide? And then I want to come back to what Mayor Iveson was suggesting in that can can municipalities just do some stuff then, whether they have jurisdiction or not can they just start to do some bold things? Carole, talk to us about the rural urban divide. Because you actually have in your membership quite a diverse makeup. You have cities that have rural inside their boundaries. And we’ve heard about both the Ottawa Mayor and the Halifax Mayor made it very clear that they have rural areas inside their municipal boundaries. How do you how do you reconcile that in the FCM work?
Carole Saab [00:35:29] You know, it’s an interesting question you ask us, but I think it’s one that I’ve been reflecting on a lot of the context of the pandemic and COVID, because I think what has become even more apparent to me in this context is that while the issues are very different and unique to the varying context, right. Obviously a big transit issues are city issues and connectivity is a rural issue. You know, the focus on certain ag issues is a rural issue. And you look at that with a pandemic lens on it, you know? And so at the outset, we had cities who were the epicenters of this pandemic and hubs who were having to scramble for all of the immediate supports because it was trying to contain this. And very quickly then the conversations with our rural members were around. Oh, my gosh, we don’t have access. We have access to the healthcare we need. We don’t have access to the connectivity. We need to be engaging in a remote work, remote school, engage health supports. And then very quickly beyond that, oh, my goodness, there’s a real problem with with farm based communities and rural communities, because this is going to hit the ag sector in a very particular way. And how are we going to continue to feed the country without very particular supports? And all of this, what’s interesting given given this scope and diversity of issues, what’s interesting is I don’t think there’s a single member around the FCM table from our smallest community to the City of Toronto that wouldn’t say fundamentally part of the issue is that cities aren’t and communities aren’t tooled in the right ways. Right. It is a constant having to push other orders of government for the appropriate levers or changes or or issues that need to be addressed so that the municipality can take the action that they know is necessary. And that’s why, across the board, there is such unity for direct tools, for as close as possible to to allocation and direct based tools so that cities can and communities can apply those in the way that they need to uniquely in their own context. And so what’s been interesting is, you know, at the beginning of this pandemic, we we as you know, everybody has mobilized and engaged differently. And what we’ve been doing at FCM is is, you know, really picked up the frequency of of calls with key demographics within our membership. And so we meet with weekly with the Big City Mayors’ Caucus. We meet weekly with our rural forum. We meet weekly with the provincial municipal associations. And in that, what has been fascinating is really sort of the consistency of this message. Everybody is aligned on the fact that municipalities need support immediately. Everybody is aligned that they want the cities to get the transit support they need. And the cities are advocating on behalf of broadband, because I think municipalities and local government across the country have realized that the divide and conquer politics of the situation are not helpful to our agenda. And what is more helpful is really to get at the nub of the issue, which is, are we is the system working the way it needs to for local governments to thrive and the country to thrive as a result of that? And I think everybody would say it’s not. And so we’ve got to start having this conversation in as rich a way as possible. And I think there’s a real opportunity for other other governments. You know, I’ll try to I’ll try to say this from the positive as opposed from the from from the complete frustration of it. But there is a real opportunity for other orders of government to really come up with solutions by working with local governments that are going to work in every corner of this country. We are a diverse country. We are a big country. The reality is different. And the only way to come up with solutions that are cohesive and national in approach is to really integrate the views of local governments because they know what is happening on the ground, what their citizens need and what they need to do to to really make this thrive. And so, you know, it’s it’s the kind of thing where I think, yes, the issues are different. And yes, we need to, as a national federation, ensure that we are, you know, working across the board on the gambit of issues. But it’s a lot less hard than you would think it is, because fundamentally, folks are aligned on on what the big, big questions are and what the moonshot is, even though it shouldn’t feel like a moonshot for our sector going forward.
Mary Rowe [00:39:46] I mean, do you think. This is a pretty crass question, but do you think that you could make the case that if municipal governments had more authority and the tools you just suggested and they had more resources and they weren’t in this this sort of dependent, almost obsequious position in, would fewer lives be lost?
Carole Saab [00:40:05] Yeah, I mean, it’s it’s you know, I’ll say this, I will say that from my perspective at least, I’d be interested if it’s felt this way to the mayor as well. But on that front, on the public safety front, I think the coordination between governments has been quite, quite good. Right. And that folks have really engaged in more unprecedented way to ensure that public safety was at the front. I do think, though, that the key supports to our vulnerable populations, key supports on the health care side, key sort of social supports, are those that are run through cities. So would we be better if cities were more inabled to do that? Absolutely, 100 percent. We would be much better placed to to respond and equally to drive a recovery on the other end of this.
Mary Rowe [00:40:50] I mean, maybe that’s the point. That’s because certainly we are seeing at CUI, we’re seeing advocacy from the large corporate sectors, from the business drivers, saying that if the municipal government isn’t restored, they won’t be able to actually bring the economy back. Mayor Iveson, I’m sure you’re hearing that from your business and corporate stakeholders, that they’re dependent on you to get that transit system up. And I just I think the dilemma with the grass cutting is that there is a sort of misperception that that’s what you’re kind of about, is kind of picking up the garbage and cutting the grass and and people say, well, you know, that’s expendable or we can wait versus all the other fundamental things you can see in the chatbox. People’s entitlement to shelter. Their their their right to the city is actually made or broken by the services that your government can provide.
Don Iveson [00:41:42] So so what I was just looking up here to to sort of answer your previous question to Carole and then I’ll I’ll pivot to what you’ve just asked here is that last year, ninety five people were commemorated in our memorial service for people who die essentially of homelessness. So would lives be saved? Absolutely. In the context of the pandemic, I’m not sure I would go so far as to say that our response would be different. I think the government of Alberta and our chief medical officers approach, which we’ve followed, has been really good. And so I don’t I don’t want to play politics with the pandemic at all, because I think that that’s an example where this is an example where governments have worked well together and we have for a short time functionally ended homelessness here in Edmonton and in many cities across the country because it became a priority for all orders of government, showing that it can be done. And Alberta, to give credit where credit was due, was the first province to adopt a 10 year plan to end homelessness 11 years ago. We reduced homelessness by half here in Edmonton over that time, although it is going to rise again because of COVID clearly. And that’s that’s a cost driver for our services and provincial services. That’s a source of social disorder. And concern for business and business comes to us and says, well, what are you going to do about homelessness? And I say, well, I really need you to talk to, because they may be more receptive to your advocacy than mine, at the provincial government to reenter leadership on this. But we’re at the point now where some of the dollars that we may reallocate through a motion before council relative to policing in response to more recent calls to action to adjust our spending from response to prevention. A couple of weeks ago, despite this crisis, we went ahead with two hundred and fifty units of permanent supportive housing. And I think we’re going to use some of the dollars that we’re gonna reallocate from policing to finish our permanent supportive housing portfolio without provincial support, even though it’s not our jurisdiction.
Mary Rowe [00:43:56] So you’ve just done it. You just said enough. We’re just going to do it.
Don Iveson [00:43:58] Well the other 650 units I have to convince council that we should go all the way outside the jurisdiction. But there’s no no sign of hope that the government of Alberta is interested. The national housing strategy gives us some favorable financing and some equity, our partners on the ground will deliver. Alberta Health Services, on an evidence basis, will will pay for the operating costs because they know that one nurse at a permanent supportive housing facility can reduce the work of five at a hospital on the reaction side. So they’ve said no matter how severe austerity gets for them, this will continue to be a good investment for them. And they’re under considerable pressure before the pandemic and even more now. So to the extent that we are critical to business, part of this this question of where are we critical is we do we have seventy three different lines of business that the City of Edmonton, some of them are cutting grass, some of them are picking up garbage, some of the maintaining roads, some of them are public transit, some of them are saving people and property and the environment from burning buildings and toxic spills, some of them are are policing, some of them are our housing, even though that’s not our jurisdiction. But where others fear to tread increasingly, I think, instead of waiting and asking nicely and getting nowhere, you’re going to see cities leaning in more on these issues. And in Toronto and Ontario, there’s no choice because housing was downloaded. Here, we’re choosing to take it up because it won’t get done otherwise. And the R.O.I that we’ve pitched to our business community, and I think there is broad support for based on a webinar I was on recently, has been that this is a key issue of justice, this is a key issue of social disorder in our downtown and the investability of our city. Like we’ve lost investment because of of disorder, because we have northern Canada’s inner city here in Edmonton. And so it should be a national.
Mary Rowe [00:45:52] Mayor Iveson, I know what that means, but explain what that means when you say you have northern Canada.
Don Iveson [00:45:56] What it means is that is a service center for northern Alberta and northern Canada, for education, for health care, and sadly, also for justice and corrections, a lot of vulnerable people find their way here, not just from Edmonton and our suburbs, but but from all across western and northern Canada. And if their needs aren’t met in their home community or if they’re not welcome in their home community because of tragic circumstances of one kind of another, or simply can’t get home because they don’t have the means, they cluster in. These vulnerable Canadians cluster in our large cities and and we’re also a base city. So just to give you a sense, on a homeless count, I went on in our census, which we do every once in a while, I remember enumerating individuals, all of whom have distinct stories. But between the veterans I talked to, the refugees I talked to, some of whom had been child soldiers and survivors and intergenerational survivors, a residential school and other colonial and genocidal Canadian practices with our Indigenous community. These are all stories of trauma, and people who’ve been traumatized don’t all go to the cities, but often find their way to to our inner cities. And so when it falls to a local government with a tax base of the city proper, within an extended metropolitan economy, within an extended regional and provincial economy, to take that on both the policing of it and attempt to prevent it. Again, this is the disconnect between the cause and effect, and it’s so complicated. And I spent most of my life trying to explain this to people who have other things to worry about and are just like, why can’t you all just get it together? Right. And so there’s a lot of politics behind it. But I think making these things tangible, I think the crisis has given us the chance to do that. But but the next round of cuts, so out of the seventy three lines of business, you know, we’re not we don’t have a library open right now. Four hundred and sixty nine librarians are laid off. Rec centers are all closed. We can’t. We’ll reopen a few of them. We reopened 25 out of 70 some spray parks because people needed somewhere to put their kids. But we can’t afford to turn them all on. So it’s and the and the discourses is well why can’t you just cut something else? Well, I’m down to the point where to open spray parks or mow the grass, I’d have to lay off firefighters or police or cut infrastructure precisely at the time when it’s on sale and we need to put people to work. And so I think that’s starting to sink in for some people. And I hope that the level of literacy about our fiscal situation and structural constitutional challenges and limitations grows out of this. But fundamentally, what we will need to change is is at least a few provinces, and B.C. is very much going in this direction and Quebec to some degree, really leaning into their local governments as as trusted partners. We have a federal government that says this and does it some of the time, but then leaves us behind on cannabis and won’t press to get this aid moving through provinces as ambitiously as we’d like them to because absolutely. And this is where business does get it. And we’ve had some conversations with national business organizations as well as, you know, our business improvement areas, our Chamber of Commerce, our labor unions. And so their literacy, maybe general public literacy is isn’t there because people are dealing with very practical concerns and stress right now in their own households, and their own businesses, with their own jobs. But those those organizations that provide some leadership have started to write pretty extraordinary letters to provincial and federal governments on behalf of their cities, towns and counties calling for this aid because they are starting to recognize because they have a higher literacy with these issues, they deal with this all the time, they come to our budgets and present. They have some sense of what we’re dealing with and they know we’re not crazy. And columnists can say we’re crazy and social media can say we’re crazy and should just prioritize differently. But these folks know us well enough to know that we’re serious, that we’re not. Crying wolf that we are pulling the fire alarm because we’re on fire. And I think that I think that that will help over time that that literacy and that that advocacy from business organizations. So I do think business gets how critical we are and as appreciated, the aid that we’ve done through deferral and through some targeted relief measures and that we’ve been there to advocate for their needs as well early on in the crisis, and we need their continued support to make sure we can be there to get their workforce safely to work with public transit, not start to cut essential services that they rely on, we all rely on for life and community safety, and not start cutting back on infrastructure precisely when we need demand stimulus.
Mary Rowe [00:50:48] So I want to go to Carole for a second, if we can. Then we’re gonna we’re gonna be in the home stretch here. Carole, you had mentioned downloading. And, you know, I got to say that I’ve been trying to move to right loading or something because I’m more of maybe more of an advocate for I’d like to see lots devolve to local communities because I think you understand better what the priorities are. And you were suggesting, Carol, you need to have local input into every policy because local service deliverers actually know what to do. They know how to do it. Do you have a sense of that, what the appetite is with your members to have different approaches so that some big cities would have some kinds of authorities and and taxing capacity maybe, and a smaller amount? Do you think within the membership of FCM there’s an appreciation for that, that not one size won’t fit all kind of thing?
Carole Saab [00:51:38] Yeah, for sure. For sure I think there is. And then that’s I mean, often we talk about the fact that a one size fits all solution isn’t isn’t the case. Exactly because of the diversity of of local governments across this country. I mean, I think this is related to a point that I was. Well, I want to jump in and make it sort of kicking off the literacy around this point. And to your question, Mary, of like, so then why why isn’t this happening? Where where is this? What’s going on? And I think part of part of the work at hand. And just given who I suspect the audiences of your of your conversations here, is a point that I really did want to make is that I think part of the missing link here is for people who are doing really good work in this space and for urbanists who are working in this space to help us really focus in on this fundamental issue, because there is a lot of work that happens as it should happen on some of the pieces on on urban issues. Right. And on active transportation and other pieces like this, which we are cities across the country are doing amazing things on. And we want to continue doing more on. But fundamentally, we need we need a change in the conversation and to change the rules of the game. And that isn’t going to happen without without really a cohesive focus on this from business, as the mayor just said, but also from other other folks who really want to see progress in in in urban centers or in communities across the country. You know, I’ll tell you, when we were when we were having these conversations with with the provincial and federal governments, one of the things we heard was that when small businesses were were in trouble at the outset of this, the government heard from everybody. Everybody came to say, including us, including FCM, including the mayors. We all said, oh, my gosh, you need to help. You need to help these small businesses. This is a problem. And what we were being told is we’re hearing from you that you’re in trouble. We’re hearing from FCM, and we’re hearing from our mayors. And you know what? It’s it’s just it’s the way politics works where there needs to be a chorus of support. There needs to be public pressure around these things. And I think where we get pressure and what what’s interesting and a bit of a frustration of mine from a vantage point is that we don’t connect these dots. And so the folks who are doing incredible work, incredible forward thinking, that want to plug it, plug that into the cities, aren’t also helping us focus fundamentally on the bigger conversation that’s going to enable them, the cities, to be leading in these areas. And so I think that’s part of the disconnect. And it really is, I think, a call. And it’s something I take seriously and and I hope to help champion at FCM here in my in my new tenor is really building those linkages and so the work that you’re doing with CUI and that others do to sort of rebuild that connective tissue in this conversation is so critical. But but it is going to take a real disciplined focus for folks in the urban space to focus on on the real fundamental issue while we continue to do important work on on on on the up front issues to change the conversation, because it isn’t, I mean, mayors and FCM have been saying this forever. And and we. It isn’t going to happen alone. And we focus in on business. But I think we need and we need the rest of our our allies in this conversation to be helping drive that focus as well.
Mary Rowe [00:55:00] We’ve got this weird pyramid, you know, in Canada where the top is kind of big daddy. In this case, it is a Dad. You know, we have that we have the prime minister at the top and then they kind of dole money out through the provinces to where all the people are. And the question is, can we somehow invert that? So there’s a power actually to the people. It’s an old 60s concept. You folks aren’t old enough to remember. I kind of remember. But Mayor Iveson, can you take us home on this? I mean, what do you think going forward, you know, we’ve just finished one hundred days. Let’s say 200 days will take us to the end of September. What do you think you’ve got to double down on us as the head of the Big City Mayors’ Caucus and then as the Mayor of Edmonton.
Don Iveson [00:55:38] So I think the mayors have never been more united and the mayors have never been more frustrated. And I’m and that’s not just at the big city mayors’ table, but but the unity of. So this has been good for our movement in the sense that, you know, those cracks that appear between urban and rural and the midsize and large and and East and West and Anglais Francais, like, this has just gelled all of that, crushed us all back into solidarity that that we need to make these structural and systemic changes to support the success of our organizations and the communities we serve. So in that sense, it’s been good. And we’ll we’ll we’ll go from that. We’ve grown the coalition with business and with labor and with NGOs and with conversations like this. And so I’m grateful to you for for highlighting our challenge. We’re still at the kids table, though, all of us, while mum and dad debate what our allowance is going to be. And until we go out there and are, ah, you know, have the opportunity to make our own money or have constitutionally protected allowance, we’re always gonna be at the kids table. And that’s not going to build the kind of country, the kind of economy, the kind of just communities, the kind of climate action that are all imperative and that we’ve all been laboring on in one way or another in city halls, county halls and town halls across this country for a long time. You know, this this organization’s leadership around climate going back more than twenty five years has made a lot of what’s possible for the federal government. And when they lean into that partnership with us, we get more done. If we could get all three orders of government pulling in the same direction, we’d we changed the game for this country and for Canadians and for justice and for my eight year old, we’d build the kind of country that said she wants to inherit and thrive in. Right. So this is intergenerational work, but this crisis gives us a pretty big fulcrum to lever off of and an urgent fulcrum. And there are more people hanging off the lever than ever who believes that building great Canadian cities and great Canadian counties and towns and communities pulling together is the answer. And that bottom up approaches to democracy is also where we’ll get better fiscal results and value for money and better policy outcomes. So I continue to believe that, that’s why I do the work that I do. And I’m just grateful that. Congrats to Carole. She’s been awesome to work with these last several years. And in Carole we trust to give us a strategy to take this one home.
Mary Rowe [00:58:09] Thank you. Well, on that very optimistic, but I appreciate its heavy lifting, it’s a tough time, but you’ve got a constituency here and CUI is tapped in, as you know, hundreds and now increasingly thousands of people who are concerned about all the issues that you two are championing and addressing directly. So we appreciate your leadership, Carole. Good luck. Day five tomorrow. You’re on a roll. Mayor Iveson, always good to hear from Edmonton. And we’re appreciative of how important Alberta cities are to the understanding of how cities are transitioning during different kinds of economic conditions and so at CUI we’ve been making sure that we hear lots from Western cities and so we appreciate you coming on, both of you this morning, today, midday. And let’s hope, you know, it ain’t over till it’s over. Right. So we’re looking. Let’s. Exactly. We’ll wait for the next set of announcements and and the robust kind of opportunity for cities and municipal governments to lead this country as we emerge. So thanks, both of you. Tomorrow, folks, we go we come back at noon for half an hour with a fabulous powerhouse mayor for the United States. Mayor Latoya Cantrell will be with us on CityTalk. The mayor of New Orleans, who Don knows, who’s a remarkable. That’s the city, remember folks, that took the Confederate monuments down first and has been it’s a 300 plus year city dealing with all sorts of structural issues and cultural issues and racial issues and economic issues. And they survived a lot. And she’s a phenomenal leader. So we have we’re lucky to have around city talk tomorrow for half an hour. Join us midday tomorrow. Eastern. And thanks, everybody. And thanks again, Don and Carole. Mayor Iveson and Carole.
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12:04:05 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Today’s panel:
Carole Saab, CEO, Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Tweets by carolesaab
12:04:42 From Canadian Urban Institute: Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:04:54 From Walter Rogers to All panelists: turning in from London Ontario
12:05:06 From James Ballinger: Hi from Halifax
12:05:17 From Elizabeth Jassem to All panelists: Hello from TORONTO, York Centre.
12:05:19 From Jennifer Brown: Hello from Saint John, New Brunswick!
12:05:20 From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk
12:05:26 From Linicha Hunter to All panelists: Desoto Texas
12:05:26 From Savannah Langkamp: Hi from Raleigh, NC, USA!
12:05:33 From Gordon McBean: Hi from London Ontario – Western U and ICLR
12:05:37 From Patricia Collins: Hi from Kingston, ON
12:05:38 From kate gunn to All panelists: greetings from sunny Edmonton!
12:05:38 From Aimée González Ferriol: Hello from Ottawa!
12:05:39 From Walter Rogers: Hello from London Ontario
12:05:46 From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb
12:05:53 From Jennifer Granados: Good morning from Tucson, Arizona!
12:05:55 From Scott Rosts: good afternoon from St. Catharines Ontario
12:05:57 From Stephen Raitz: Hello from Beaumont (namesake of the greater Beaumont region, within which Edmonton is situated)
12:05:58 From Maureen Shenher to All panelists: Hello from Edmonton:)
12:06:14 From Kirsten Goa: Hi from Edmonton
12:06:23 From James Byrne to All panelists: Hello from Peterborough, ON
12:06:26 From Amanda-Rose McCulley: Hi from Kitchener, Ontario!
12:06:28 From Iris Chu: Hi all, tuning in from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
12:06:29 From Siri Agrell: Hi from Toronto!
12:06:34 From Scott Erdman: Good morning from Vancouver
12:06:55 From Debra Jakubec to All panelists: Hello, from Edmonton, AB
12:07:18 From Catherine Soplet to All panelists: Hello to everyone from historic Clarkson Village located in SW Mississauga
12:07:40 From Elizabeth Jassem to All panelists: Great to see again Mary and thank you for your CUI terrific pioneering work!! Welcome Carole and Mayor of Edmonton.
12:08:43 From Bin Lau to kate gunn and all panelists: Hey Kate!
12:11:17 From Carolyn Whitzman: Hi from Ottawa!
12:12:07 From Catherine Soplet: Hello from historic Clarkson Village, locate in SW Mississauga, Ontario
12:17:10 From louise reid to All panelists: I’d like to see that 1100 word rant!
12:22:13 From Elizabeth Jassem to All panelists: Great Edmonton.
12:22:20 From Elizabeth Jassem to All panelists: city of Toronto should also finally cut double burocracy. Mayor Tory pledged in his 1st election campaign that HE WILL CUT BuildTO = now CreateTO bc of doubling tasks which we are paying from our taxes.
12:23:18 From Canadian Urban Institute: Welcome new joiners! Just a reminder to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:23:20 From Elizabeth Jassem to All panelists: We should do our petition – city needs more money – and before will raise our taxes.
12:24:06 From Elizabeth Jassem to All panelists: we don’t have money to pay 56% hike in taxes. You will bancropt us!
12:24:42 From Elizabeth Jassem to All panelists: we don’t have money to pay 56% hike in taxes. You will bankrupt us!
12:25:54 From louise reid: Absolutely re: any cracks are magnified in ALL aspects of our lives.
12:28:39 From Catherine Soplet: Sharing a post-covid proposal, getting a toehold here in Peel Region …. Restoring tree canopy for climate change research is a proposed activity which is healthful and restorative for people, to recover from COVID pandemic and helps build in green infrastructure and foster community emergency preparedness for climate change. ACER Canada, www.acer-acre.ca is an environmental education charity. Since 1987 ACER has developed programs including planting and geotagging of tree specimens for school yards, conservation areas, and private landowners of residential and commercial land. Sites are publicly accessed, although land ownership can be public or private. Sites are planted with a view to engage local stewardship to collect annual data for international climate change research. In 2019, ACER bundled its Planting for Change school yard planting program into a proposal for Peel Region – Project Crossroads: Planting for Change. The tagline is “Climate justice science, for trees and for people”.
12:28:55 From Catherine Soplet: The tagline is “Climate justice science, for trees and for people”. Read the proposal profile: https://bit.ly/ProjectCrossroads_Profile_Jan-2020 Project Crossroads targets efforts to work with communities in identified low tree canopy “heat islands” where residents experience lower well-being and higher policing events. The areas coincide with Statcan data for higher residency of recent immigrants, and lower income families who experience poverty. Check out the overlay maps, in the presentation to Mississauga Climate Action network for Earth Day 2020. https://bit.ly/ProjectCrossroads_Earth-Day-2020_MCA-Network Funding for 1500 tree specimens for October 2020 planting in Bramalea SNAP areas was announced Sunday, June 14 at ACER’s AGM. For details, read ACER’s press release: https://bit.ly/ACER-2020-AGM_NOTICE-Press-Release
12:29:01 From Guillermo (Gil) Penalosa: Why are Canadian cities allowing the myth that transit is dangerous to prosper? Not ONE COVID outbreak has come out of public transit around the world. Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan allowing over 90% capacity with mandatory mask use, and silence policy, double prevention. BC 70%; Ontario 35%. Hundreds of millions lost in operations that will less funds for health, housing, parks, education, etc. No way to re-open without vibrant public transit.
12:29:11 From Elizabeth Jassem to All panelists: I am NOT even sure how many councilors we need? People are doing so much on e-commerce and e-contacts – webinars- town halls- maybe, our representatives should be CITIZENS DIRECTLY only, with much smaller council to vote for the City at large? But local pieces should be decided and done by local democracy- citizens?
12:30:29 From Michael Roschlau to All panelists: You are right, Guillermo, but it only takes one positive case traced back to transit to blow this out of the water.
12:30:50 From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Just a reminder to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:30:54 From Michael Roschlau: You are right, Guillermo, but it only takes one positive case traced back to transit to blow this out of the water.
12:31:10 From Carolyn Whitzman: How can constitutional role of cities change? Are there any enablers out there?
12:34:11 From Michael Roschlau: Hamburg is unique because it is a separate state within the German federation. Other German cities do not have the same status.
12:36:12 From Guillermo (Gil) Penalosa: Churchill’s “Don’t let a crisis go to waste” later used by Chicago’s mayor in 2008 does not seem to have reached Canadian city leaders. What BOLD changes can take place that would not be taking place if there was no COVID? Most doing nothing, others just advancing actions that were already approved, few doing bold as Montreal’s 200 km protected bikeways. What concrete actions now to have a more equitable & sustainable postCOVID?
12:37:17 From David Crenna: The Mayor’s comments on making rural-urban linkage building are fundamental to making change happen!
12:37:24 From Catherine Soplet: Maybe a way to get protection for cities is to evolve, expand and update the Canada Health Act to mitigate inequities experienced by cities when their residents are unwell. Explicitly addressing ailments which are unique for Women’s health, seniors, youth, newcomers, addiction and mental health — Canada Health Act is a way to hold provincial budgets to account on health transfers
12:37:44 From Catherine Soplet: Fund cities for healthcare
12:40:00 From GC to All panelists: Urban economy needs more partners to drive beyond partisanship. Don is right on. Think about an automatous economic Centre with local-based commercial free-trade zine.
12:40:12 From GC to All panelists: Free trade zones!
12:41:07 From David Crenna: As Carole says, the access for rural and small communities is being quietly constricted, e.g., no buses to hospitals for rural seniors…
12:41:14 From Carolyn Whitzman: Following on Catherine, maybe a rights-based approach to transfer payments? Edmonton has been so strong on Right to Housing, Alberta not so much. Toronto doing much better than Ontario, etc.
12:41:17 From Canadian Urban Institute: Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.
12:41:24 From Elizabeth Jassem: am NOT even sure how many councilors plus their offices we need? People are doing super well so much on e-commerce, e-contacts – webinars- town halls- maybe, our representatives should be CITIZENS DIRECTLY only with shifting 1-2 local office ppl, and with much smaller Council to voting for City at large? Local pieces should be picked up/decided and done by local democracy- citizens?
12:45:34 From GC: Elizabeth is right on! Working remotely in the past 15 weeks in Ontario have turned traditional office work upside down. How can all governments. not only municipalities, operate more efficiently without occupying big office spaces and think about doing the same with less.
12:45:51 From David Crenna: Perception of doing just smaller stuff needs to be addressed, for sure! Links to economic success need to be stressed more!
12:46:18 From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk
12:48:34 From David Crenna: These kinds of comparative effectiveness measures need to be brought together out of their siloes more often, with metrics!
12:50:24 From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb
12:54:13 From Elizabeth Jassem: We know, that our Councilor built his/his office new presentence on web thanks to covet (I think) funds help. That’s fine, but when they doing town-halls – we’re (citizens) are muted. When Town Hall was organized by our YC MP, MPP and Councilor – with whom we work great – most of the townhall time went to their own self-services. How we may create more CITIZENS democratic votes on local issues? Switzerland does this in governments? IMAGINE, how much funds we can additionally secure by relying more on direct governing? Smaller local pieces.
12:54:30 From Mayor Don Iveson to All panelists: Devolution, not revolution!
12:54:42 From MARYAM MOMENI to All panelists: Thank you everyone, was very useful.
12:56:54 From Canadian Urban Institute: What did you think of today’s conversation? Help us improve our programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/2Ns1kL5
12:58:03 From Kirsten Goa: Any thoughts on how to frame the narrative?
Here we have a provincial government shouting “Fair Deal” we have many reacting negatively to “New Deal” …
We need different framing but it needs to resonate with citizens values and attachment to place.
12:58:39 From Kirsten Goa: If we use their framing we’re just reinforcing the province’s narrative.
13:00:31 From David Crenna: Mayor is right that fragmentation in the past has been the weak point.. must grab the new solidarity and run with it!
13:00:40 From Linicha Hunter: like how he said we still at the kids table..so true
13:00:58 From Walter Rogers: Thanks Mayor Iveson. Using the metaphor of cities being at the kids table awaiting for our parents to decide our allowance was excellent.
13:01:16 From Elizabeth Jassem: Why don’t we focus on retooling our cities with creating much smaller 15 mins access walking complete communities – we are working on introducing here, at York Centre – for seniors health village at Downsview as multigenerational community of course, where all needed daily services are accessible within walking distance. No need to take bus, subway or car. Everybody would become more active and healthy, including with much better mental health to all, where/when Accidental meeting neighbours would become a real human pleasure.
13:02:10 From Linicha Hunter: thanks from texas
13:02:25 From Elizabeth Jassem: THANK YOUALL. FANTASTIC. DISCUSION.
13:02:28 From Linicha Hunter: yes
13:02:35 From Iris Chu: Thank you all!
13:02:41 From Mayor Don Iveson to All panelists: Thanks!
13:02:42 From Kirsten Goa: Thank you!
13:02:44 From David Crenna: Thank you!
13:02:44 From Carolyn Whitzman: really great stuff. Keep up the good work, CUI!
13:02:45 From Cherise Roberts: Thank you!