State of Canada’s Cities Summit – What Success Looks Like: Agency and Opportunity
CUI has framed every conversation it has convened since March 2020 as what is working, what’s not, and what’s next for Canada’s cities and urban regions. These final two sessions bring together participants to highlight their solutions but also identify the key obstacles to further success, and the levers governments have and must exercise for Canada to succeed in this poly-crisis environment.
Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to email@example.com with “transcription” in the subject line.
Jeb Brugmann “What Success Looks Like: Agency and Opportunity” … I’ll ask the first question. Please, if you would introduce yourself and what your work is a little bit when you do that. But we’ve … and it’s been highlighted in earlier panels how we’ve come out of a crisis and how that’s been challenging. But also we’ve seen some opportunities open up there, too, on the theme of this panel. So in your work and a lot of you works in that third sector where resources are lean or you’re innovating in a business model or you’re specifically thinking about disenfranchized communities or racialized communities that are particularly vulnerable. What are the … what’s the nature of the crisis and challenge? It was highlighted whether it’s COVID or whether it’s in the policing issues we’ve been confronting or the wildfires, the 67,000 wildfires we had in Canada. What have you learned in your sector is weaker than you thought that needs to be brought forward into this discussion. But what are the opportunities that opened up and particularly, how would you be able to move your work forward if you have been – because you could mobilize people in the context of that crisis? And maybe we would just start here with you, Margaret.
Margaret Pfoh Okay. In the language of my Tsimshian ancestors – thank you for that. I think to add a little bit of framework to it, I’m going to say my name is Margaret Pfoh, I’m the CEO for the Aboriginal Housing Management Association. I’m also the President of the Canadian Housing and Renewal Association. So I have a lot of background when it comes to what’s been happening across this country as it is directly related to housing and supportive services. So I would expand that framework a little bit for you in terms of the crisis situation. And I should proviso that my elder Shane Point told me that I shouldn’t say crisis or I should reduce my saying of crisis because it creates a sense of fight or flight and that we should be finding a new word for it. But when I look at what we’ve been dealing with, I can’t help but say it really is from a housing lens, a true crisis that we’re all trying to deal with. But the framework I want to expand a little bit on is the reality that for indigenous peoples across Canada, not only have they experienced the same crisis that we’ve all had to face around COVID fires and floods, but there’s the layering in that was parallel to this evolving crisis, and that includes starting with the 215 that were found in the unmarked graves in Kamloops. It adds to the reality that we know that colonization or current urbanization often marginalized indigenous peoples to the outskirts of the communities which are more prone to fires and floods and displacement. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen happen. So there’s a compounding crisis that has been impacting indigenous peoples. The solutions that we’ve seen that have been generated out of those situations have really fallen into two principles. One that my elder calls not so much, and that’s the concept of one mind, the reality that we all have to address these issues from one common position and one common place. The second one is the concept of reconciliation equaling economic reconciliation. And that means that we make space purposefully for indigenous peoples and organizations at your tables. And I’m happy to go into some more specific examples later.
Jeb Brugmann Go ahead and give us an example of like what’s opened up? What is that opportunity that’s happened? Because that crisis is, I hope, increasingly recognized.
Margaret Pfoh Yeah. So I’ll go to probably one of the most obvious ones recently for us is that we created the first ever provincial, urban, rural and Northern Indigenous housing strategy that has been created in the country of Canada ever. I don’t believe it’s actually been created anywhere in the world, and that was done in a exactly that and not so much starting position. We brought together the Assembly of First Nations, British Columbia. We brought together 18 nations, British Columbia, the First Nations Health Authority, B.C. Association of Friendship Centers. We also brought together the broader sector through B.C., not for profit because we recognized that indigenous people often end up in non-Indigenous organizations seeking support and services. And so we knew that the concept of not so much had to be fully inclusive of that entire spectrum. That strategy calls for a $7.3 billion investment in the province of B.C. alone for the increasing of 20,000 affordable housing units for urban indigenous people only in British Columbia. But it also included a wholesome look at the ecosystem of housing. So it also focused on capital renewal. How do we maintain the existing stock so that people live in a place of dignity and can age in place and and thrive in place? It also included the concept of home ownership, because we know that we have a good population of indigenous peoples that are ready to enter or were ready pre-COVID pre-economic crisis to enter the real estate market, and that they just needed a little bit of a support to actually enter into that real estate market. That strategy has been heralded across Canada from our Federal Crown Corp. CMHC is the baseline for all of Canada. It has also been studied by another cross-national research that said that that strategy is the proxy for all of Canada. So we’re really happy that demonstrating, putting aside egos, putting aside personalities. I heard the last panel talk about having no common ground. You know, I agree with you. That’s a that’s a very strong starting point. But what we all had to agree with were underlying principles that would drive our. Our desire to get that outcome, the strategy, and put aside our egos, put aside our own political biases, and put aside our personality. Some of us really didn’t like each other. And to be able to put that aside to achieve a strategy that speaks to the baseline for all of Canada, I think is a strong demonstration of walking the walk in the walk, talking the talk, walking the walk. What is that? Yeah.
Jeb Brugmann Yeah, that’ll do. (Thank you.) Great. And I want to ask more about the implementation challenges, we’ll come back to it. But Patti, the arts community – abject crisis during COVID, right? So …
Patti Pon Yes, absolutely.
Jeb Brugmann What’s been happening since? What’s broken free or what’s what’s come about as a set of solutions to think when we think about resilience of those in the arts sector?
Patti Pon Yeah, well, I’m going to come at it from a more kind of community-wide basis. So I’m from Calgary and you heard from Naheed, you know, being the mayor that has declared the three only emergencies and every single one of those it was a 100 year flood, worst economic downturn since the Depression. Worldwide pandemic all happened in ten years. Like this year was the 10th year of the flood. Every single one of those closed shows and curtains and people were out of work. Artists are among those in poverty, among those who are houseless, among those who are most in need. Of all the things that you’ve been talking about today. And yet creative industries contribute $54 billion per year to Canada’s GDP, Alberta’s 10% of that. And and yet which is more, by the way, than forestry, fisheries and agriculture put together. And yet we are in those very places where you’re talking about where the gap is largest. So it’s not just the COVID that happened that impacted artists. It is a value proposition that we have. You’ve also spent the day talking about creativity and it’s like if you didn’t get born with the creativity gene, it’s not like you lost the lottery. The creativity is something. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Artists practice creativity all the time. They really, really know what failure looks like, what taking risk looks like. And they come back and they practice creativity even more. The fella over to my left who’s been creating that piece, how many of you even saw him there? And he is putting what he’s heard today in a context that I suspect all of us in this room will understand. We will see something in that that we relate to, and yet we will be the ones who will ask an artist to donate a painting for my cause, even though they are those in poverty. So this is an issue that is is endemic in the sector, and that’s why we are public funders in Canada of the arts, because artists bring meaning, they help connect us. Brian started the morning off today by talking about belonging. No one’s going to feel like they belong When you’re talking about the economy or you’re talking about homelessness or you’re talking about loneliness. But an artist will create stories that will connect all of us to know what it feels like because we all felt that during COVID. And so we need artists now more than ever. We need them to connect us again and belong. No one is going to give a flying flip about what we talked about today until we all feel like we’re in the circle together. So that’s the opportunity that artists bring and that I’ve seen them do in the kind of eight months ish since COVID ended. So yeah, that’s the possibility.
Jeb Brugmann We have have there have been particular innovations that happened in Calgary that.
Patti Pon Oh yeah, absolutely.
Jeb Brugmann Share a few.
Patti Pon Examples. Sure. I call them small experiments with radical intent, and I attribute them to my colleague Richard Evans. So one is called Chinook Blast. It’s a winter festival that we actually started in COVID and we had 250,000 people come out to the festival in 2021 in lockdown. And it was an initiative that came with Canada, the city of Calgary. Kate is my organization. Oh, I didn’t say who I was president and CEO of Calgary Arts Department. We’re the local Arts Council who makes grant investments on behalf of the city of Calgary. And the arts development part is about how we use the arts to strengthen our city. So it’s a city that all Calgarians deserve, not some Calgarians. And so it was an issue between tourism, US economic development, the city of Calgary. The mayor at the time I had Nenshi spearheaded us. And inspired us to say, Let’s find ways for Calgarians to connect in a time when we are feeling most lonely, most isolated, most uninspired, and social blast came into being and it was outside in the winter, it was -30 and we had installations all over the place. And for people to experience joy in that time was something they hadn’t experienced in like two years. So it was incredible to be in the city at that time. And the festival has since continued. We’re now 400,000 people over three weekends in February, not the most climate friendly time of year in Calgary. The other thing we’ve created in partnership with Calgary Economic Development is the Creative Economy guidebook. So how can we use those creatives in the city to put together and coalesce our strength as a creative economy for the betterment of the communities and the enterprises we serve? And most of those creative industries, by the way, are one and two person entrepreneurship. So like independent artists, but it also includes technology. So gaming designers, video designers, you don’t get a video game without a composer writing that music or of an artist creating those characters. So that’s one. And then the third one I’ll talk about, which maybe doesn’t sound really optimistic, but it is. We are the first program in Canada to create the Future Focus program, which I call a palliative care program for the arts. We know that there were companies who long before a 100 year flood came along, probably weren’t working in a way that was good for the community. And this program walks with you with empathy and generosity and humanity to close. And we started the program in 2020, and the first company we’re working with to do that is this year. So it’s taken us three years to have that conversation with community about it’s okay for your life cycle to end like growth and old growth giving away to new growth. So those are three examples.
Jeb Brugmann Thank you. And I’m sure there are more. Thanks very much. Alkarim, if you also describe your organization and what you’re doing with real estate because it’s quite special.
Alkarim Devani Yeah, no, thank you. When you talk about the pandemic, it’s fuzzy for me, so it’s hard for me to kind of reference that moment. But we’re a panel of not had many fans because in 2015 I was also really instrumental in our work. He actually helped create the first missing middle kind of rowhouse House district in the city of Calgary, which led to the precipitous of our work in middle housing. And so we’ve built over 350 units over the last ten years. And I know it doesn’t sound like a lot of units, but you got to realize this is buying one single family home at a time and then trying to densify those lots one at a time. Middle housing, if some of you don’t know, is kind of taking the nation by storm, where we’re seeing municipalities all across the country being pushed down by the federal government to allow for for uses for units as of. Right. What’s really good about Calgary is where we are actually eight units as of right. So a very progressive city. I think we have over 6000 residents now living in missing metal housing, a form that was didn’t even really have that potential. And so we what I’m really interested in and trying to help solve is although zoning as a constraint starts to be unlocked, how do we actually start to see the delivery of missing housing at scale? And I think it’s a really, really powerful tool. My parents were refugees. They came here in the seventies. They lived in an illegal basement suite, was the first house that they had. And so, you know, as my heritage, multi-generational housing was such an important part of the way that I grew up. And so with me, what what makes Middle so special is we’re able to bring housing diversity and hopefully affordable housing diversity to communities that have not had it for a very long time. The key thing that I’m really, really focused on and worried about is we’re doing this from a very top down approach. We like to call people who oppose things in our communities NIMBYs, because it’s an easy way to brushstroke, which I just think is the easy way to avoid conversations. I think when you think about middle housing and the ownership of that housing, it’s actually primarily stock owned by our elderly population and we’ve isolated them and we continue to isolate them in these conversations. And so really what I’m hoping for is finding a way to actually include those at the ground level, find ways for them to age within our communities, create structures that actually bring them back into the conversation, bring them back into the fold and. It’s going to be key to unlocking it. They own most of it. It’s the beauty of this program. Those houses are owned by Canadians. For us to actually see metal housing transpire at scale, we actually have to include them in just a little stat, because I know a lot of folks are saying, well, middle housing won’t solve the housing crisis. And we’re right, not one thing. Well, but in the city of Calgary alone, there’s 280,000 single family homes within our established neighborhoods. We can say that roughly a third of those could accept middle housing units. So that’s 100,000 homes that could accept middle housing units. If we were to take eight units in every single one of those, that’s 800,000 homes of stock that we’re not thinking about. In Alberta alone this year, we’re 130,000 residential units short. Romney put out a report saying that we need 3.5 million homes by 2030. So just in the city of Calgary alone, there’s 800,000 potential units that we can identify. And the beauty of middle it is it won’t be financialized. It’ll be done by small developers, by by individuals. And if we can empower the community in this is the thing lay Jim Button who was was a phenomenal community builder from the city of Calgary. He transformed the craft brewing industry. And what he said was we need to work together collaboratively. We’re not working against each other. And it’s the same thing when we think about redevelopment or established neighborhoods. It actually only represents less than 10% of what’s happening because our new growth just outpaces pieces of us. In Calgary, it was 90% of our growth happens in new communities, only 10% happens in established communities. And so there’s this incredible opportunity for us to work together. I’ve heard collaboration at large. It continues to be a challenge when you talk to public, to public just from each other. Folks in the public sector don’t know how to work together. You can imagine how tough it is when you sit across from someone in the private sector. And so collaboration is key. But I think what’s so important is just empowering those that matter the most. And for me, it’s our elderly population.
Jeb Brugmann Thanks very much. So each year and applause to all three of you, Prentice, I’ll come to you next. But I just want to highlight, as I’m sure you’re thinking as well, like your pioneering models, you know. So what’s really inspiring about it is part of what success looks like is someone has to create the model that’s scalable. And we talked about scale the last time. Maybe we’ll come back to it here, but it’s very exciting to hear about these three different models that you’ve pioneered that have such a great such opportunity for scaling. Prentiss, you have a view that’s very broad because of your position in the university, and you get to analyze things and in a comparative way and things of that nature. So I’m really interested to hear what what you see in the landscape of the crisis and what it’s highlighted we need to be modeling and working on. But also where do you see the opportunity for innovation and solutions coming from?
Prentiss Dantzler Sure. Thanks for having me. So I am Prentiss Dantzler. I’m a housing development scholar at the University of Toronto Department of Sociology and also with the School of Cities. And so for me, it’s a couple of things. It’s one, determining what a crisis is and who is in a crisis, too. I think if you could actually ask some of the marginalized committees that we’ve been talking about today, a lot of them will say they’ve been having these housing crises for decades and not just in the last few years. Right. And so really complicating these narratives about what’s really going on, I think, is really important. I think one thing is the thing about this kind of increased attention to building housing supply without any really critical attention to the types of housing is a really important part, right? And so part of the my reason for coming to the University of Toronto is that the city of Toronto has the second largest housing authority in North America outside of New York City. And so for me, there’s a lot of idealizing of Canada in their housing policies, particularly in the States. And so I’m curious to see what’s really going on up here. But coming up here, you see a lot of the same similarities in terms of the housing supply, the housing conversations. I can give you a few things. One is that when we talk about racialized communities, all communities are racialized. Right? And so really point out when you’re talking about just nonwhite bodies, white people become the default. And so every time we have these kind of assessments of what communities are doing better and which ones aren’t, we’re comparing them to some type of standard already. And so we have to complicate what we’re really talking about, too. I’m still confused today, like what the real goals are for different individuals when we’re talking about the housing system specifically for overall. So what is a sustainable community? What does equity really look like? I think we need a problem in size that for a lot of different reasons, because my goal is not to have everybody come entrepreneur or homeowner. My goal is to make sure that everybody has a place to stay at night. Right. And so really thinking about what our common goals are in this space is really important for that, that type of thing. I think three, we kind of idealize the United States and Canada and we go back and forth about learning about new models. But even where we were talking about earlier, Marion from HUD was talking about, you know, all these different programs. And so HUD is a very major program. But if you look at the history of AI, it’s been very problematic, particularly for racialized and marginalized communities in the states. And so things like housing vouchers, which people are like, oh, that could be an interesting thing. In tight markets, it does not work really well. And so even thinking. Broxbourne has a housing policy outcome or solution would be very problematic for the Canadian government to even think about. I think, too, when we think about Elisabeth Moss talking about housing as a human right, we don’t have that in the States. And so we really treat it like a private commodity. And so if we’re going to really establish what it means to have housing as a public good, I think we need to complicate it and increase the amount of non de market size housing, increase the ownership strategies. And so within the kind of grand scheme things of being a commune, developing scholar, we really think about community power, community control to dictate their lives for themselves. It’s not to fit into some narrative of what they should be doing is to give them agency efficacy, to make decisions at the local level in those type of spaces. And then lastly, I think a lot of us had these kind of a complicated conversation about race. What does it really mean to be anti-racist in these spaces is really complicated. Is Canada actually doing better? I would say no in a lot of different ways. And I can show you empirical research on why I think the state still has a very problematic and continues to have these problematic conversations about race. And so we’re really taking it very seriously and critically. One thing we could do is actually explore where don’t we know about things about different racialized communities? And so there are really big data issues in Canada, right? If I want to know how many institutional investors own several different properties, I can’t look that information up. As an individual, I have to rely on reports from the federal government or some type of other agency to do that. And usually academics are the ones that are asking different questions that are not in a frame of the purview of an organization or even a federal agency or another government agency. And so thinking about collaborations with universities and partnerships to get access to a lot of the data issues that we have in a country will provide the access for academics and research and scholars to provide a more nuanced, complicated understanding of what’s really going on in at a local level. I think for me, it’s really kind of complementing, complicating these narratives, interrogating a lot of the things that we take for granted and the things that we think is true, and also creating space that have different sectors outside of government in a private sector. But even thinking about how can we get local communities engaged in these types of processes. I think there’s a missed opportunity, even when we were talking about earlier, like when Janice to say who we get rid of the capital gains tax. Tara One of my colleagues, Charles like, well, who actually owns a house in this room, right? Who can actually participate in elect and vote for people in their local elections. And so when you really think about how the system actually works, a lot of people are not able to participate in the system as much as we think they are. And so really, for me, it’s really kind of complicating these narratives to really think about what are we missing, where we’re taking a lot of the things that we talk about for granted.
Jeb Brugmann So what what part of the narrative would you say we’re? So it has opened up, right? I mean, whether it’s because of indigenous People Movement or Black Lives Matter, there is a different conversation and people are trying to figure out, to your point, like, so we’re we’re getting it wrong. We’re going to get a lot of it wrong. What’s the issue we could prioritize getting clear on sooner that would be most helpful, do you think, for addressing the range of issues that we confront as a crisis, housing and many other things in our cities?
Prentiss Dantzler It’s problematic that most of your agencies don’t even collect race based data when a lot of the stuff they do. And so when we’re making these ideas about what we can do, we always rely on his classmates positions without thinking about how race actually structures our system. So, for instance, immigration policy, we don’t welcome immigrants from everywhere. Right. And so when we think about those have changed over time. And so really thinking about how these things actually structure, who gets to come into their country, and then when they get here, where do they actually resettle or settle at? I think we have to think about how these things about race and gender and class status are actually structuring our urban environments. Right. And also think about who has power in these states. We just have a new mayor in Toronto, which is really exciting because there has been a lot of momentum. But before that there was a lot of political unrest from the principality to provincial governments, and a lot of us have talked about that today, and that’s going to continue. So think about what are those kind of political interventions. To me, crises are really, for me, a really good way to become politically active. Right. And so part of the reason you have a thing like, for instance, from United States, like the in the Inflation Reduction Act is that is it’s really a climate change bill, but it’s also a political strategy. Biden is not just doing this to combat climate change. A lot of that money is flowing into rural areas and conservative districts. And so they’re having a different relationship with the state going forward and being more open to the idea that you can have adaptive strategies that deal with climate change when notoriously they weren’t. And so really thinking about how can you think about policy as a political strategy for the long term is more important to me than thinking about these one off instantaneous. Because we know that that person in that political office is going to change after that term. And so you might not get the same buy in from the successor. And so are there other ways that we can increase our capacity to get the public to engage in these processes? For me, more important for the long term, because then they can think about their own sustainability strategies outside of the crises at the political level.
Jeb Brugmann Thank you. So, rich, you know, that’s another conference too, right? But thank you very much for elevating it in our conversation. What success looks like. I want to come back to this word agency, because all of you raise it, but we should unpack it a little bit more like the big success of the strategy. There’s a lot of agency that happened there, and I’m just wondering whether it’s with you as a leader or within your organization, like what are the critical pieces of agency? And I do want to recognize the central role of leadership there for our two Calgarians. You’ve made that reference, but from you in the position you’re in, in the change process, what what have you, what can you offer in terms of understanding how to strengthen and deploy agency as a change maker?
Margaret Pfoh Yeah, thanks for that question. I guess to talk a little bit more about agency, I mean, it’s always about a leader at some point, but it’s also it’s not about how we tell people what to do. It’s how we bring the skills, the knowledge, the expertise, the passion together in one room to help drive a solution that’s based on multiple input as opposed to a singular person. So it’s never about a singular leader. It’s more about how leadership brings together those those innovations, those ideas and those concepts together. And I have, you know, I think three more examples that I’ll share, because underneath all of those three examples is about the question of agency and about the question of bringing together that collaborative approach. Even if you don’t like each other and finding that common ground of what it is you’re trying to achieve in your community. The first one would be in B.C., the Rental Protection fund that was just announced earlier this year. That’s an example of years of of of advocacy from the three of us, the Aboriginal Housing Management Association, Co-op, Housing Federation, B.C. and the B.C., not for profit housing that came together and said that we’re losing purpose built rentals at an exponential rate and the data is beyond me. Those are the data nerds that love to quote statistics and numbers. That’s not me and fortunately, but I do have one in the room that I’m going to reference later. You guys can go and talk to or two in the room, more than a few in the room actually. But anyways, the rental protection fund and ultimately after years of advocacy, created a $500 million opportunity for sector led acquisitions to preserve affordable rental units. Because we saw through the financialization that people, you know, speculators, foreign investors, you know, people just wanting to make a quick buck or buying up purpose built rental rent, evicting all of the people that were in there under somewhat affordable rents, creating an affordability gap in the market. And so we put we proposition the government in 2019 and …
Jeb Brugmann You mean your organization?
Margaret Pfoh The three of us, so tthe BC Not for Profit, the Co-op Housing Federation and AMA proposition the government in 2019. And it took us until 2022 to get word that they were actually going to be interested and 2023 to get the money flowing and we can already evidence in just the first call for proposals, substantial uptake that demonstrates that this is a scalable model not only for the province of B.C. but for the entire country of Canada. A second one is the creation of the National Indigenous Collaborative Housing Inc, which is a federal housing organization that was structured by a similar crisis in the 1990s that led to Arma, that being that the government just simply wasn’t adequately meeting the needs of urban indigenous peoples across the country of Canada. So urban Indigenous providers came together in short order upon the announcement of the $300 million in Budget 2022 to strike to structure an urban, rural and Northern strategy, which we had been advocating for, and we being again, the collective, not just Auma, but we had been advocating for that since the Federal government changed in 2017 and announced their national housing strategy. So we finally get an acknowledgment in Budget 2022 and a $4 billion acknowledgment in 2023. And so, like Auma, the National Indigenous Collaborative Housing Inc got together and said the federal government is not properly positioned to displace to just burst those funds because they are not Indigenous solutions for Indigenous people need to be led by Indigenous people. They agreed, at least in part for the $300 million that is being flown through NISHI, which is the acronym for that organization as we speak today. And we already know, like the Rental Protection Fund, the uptake is already a prime example of the need for that $4 billion to be released today, not in the back loading that the budget demonstrated. And the only other one I’m going to speak to is the recent release that we just did on Monday morning, which is a Canadian Housing and Renewal Association research report commissioned to Deloitte, that evidence that if we increase the affordability housing stock by one and a half percent, we would increase gross domestic productivity by up to $136 billion. If that doesn’t evidence the value of investing in affordable housing, community housing. I don’t know what else will. And if that doesn’t speak to the average taxpayer out in our community, those of you that are struggling to to to make a living in your own community, I don’t know what else will. But the common issue that we’ve had to face as agents is and I know you guys won’t be able to see this, but I love this. I’ve seen it on I found it on Twitter a long time ago. And it’s that whole barrier of the federal, provincial and municipal governments, the three spider-men. It’s when that three Spider-Man movie came out where they’re pointing at each other and blaming each other, having to navigate those steps for all of those successes we just shared were key barriers for us. But they actually enhanced our ability to agree. We need to work together. And we did bring municipal, provincial and federal governments to the table.
Jeb Brugmann Great. Thank you. And earlier at the start of today’s session, there was a lot of talk about needing to strengthen the nonprofit sectors, work on housing. So we have some good examples here. Towards the end of the day of just what strength can look like. I want to make sure we have time to come back to talk about local government. So if we can, I just would really love to hear a little bit more in brief about where the agency came from for the success in your case. Now, Patti, those three examples you gave, what does agency look like?
Patti Pon Well, I will say that it’s probably I think it was Zita who says she hasn’t you know, collaboration is not a good thing because no one can agree. And it’s like I would agree that it isn’t about collaboration. I define partnership as three things. Partners are 5050. You all get exactly the same and you go away and you come back next time when there’s something in it. For each of you, collaboration as you recognize someone might be a little bit bigger or a little bit smaller. You might put in a little more, but you know, it’s for the greater good. Not interested in that. I’m interested in coconspirators. I’m interested in people who are interested in changing the system. So at the time I took this gig, I had a mayor who was interested in changing the system, and I had others in the creative community at economic development and tourism who were interested in changing the system. It took ten years, but we’re now in a place where my budget was $6 million in 2018. Today, it’s just under $20 million. So my community knows the value of artists in our community, and it’s not patty granting them out of poverty. It’s about including if you want to be a more creative community. You probably should have artists at your table and you probably should pay them a living wage. At least that gentleman over there should be on this panel and and hear him talk about how he fails forward, how he thinks about and uses his filters to look at the world. So by empowering artists and giving them the agency, because I had other coconspirators with me at the table, that’s how you make it possible.
Jeb Brugmann Lovely. Thank you very much.
Alkarim Devani Yeah, it’s an interesting question. One of my mentors always says to me, Upon whose authority do you have this? And the one thing I’ve come to realize, it’s like. I don’t. I don’t fucking care. Here’s what I’ve come to realize. It’s like it’s. I have basically arrived at this place that I. Mary was kind enough to have me here, and I get to come as I am, and she understands how I’ll show up. And that is my agency. I’ve been able to reinforce my agency in the fact that, like had said, is I want to actually create good. My good comes in me being who I am and that representative, but also having the authority to not be an expert and fail and be wrong and be willing to learn. And so for me, it’s like the one thing I will tell you as I’ll come as I am, but I know that I’m not going to have all the answers. I’m probably the least smartest person in the room, but I’m willing to meet you where you are to help you find your solution.
Jeb Brugmann Great. Yeah, well, all of these comments are so rich, I don’t know how to move on to the next one because we could just sit with any one of them and impact them further. Prentiss, what’s your.
Prentiss Dantzler Yeah, I just want to make sure that we’re when we say collaborations, we need to be very mindful of who we are collaborating with, right? And so like for me, it’s not only working with like agencies I see UI, which I love, and Infrastructure Canada and all these other organizations also working with community groups like Miles Part Community Coalition in Toronto, they’re trying to develop a CBA agreement with Metrolinx because of the Ontario line coming through. Their space is working with TCHC on getting a more accurate read of their racial equity issues within their organization and also thinking about displacement issues across the city that’s going to affect them and change their processes. And so really thinking about when we’re having people at the table, community groups are not the people we’re working to save. They should have an integral part in how we’re doing these processes, and that can look a different ways. It’s not just having public forums or public outreach is about inclusion from the start in the planning processes, right? And so I think a lot of times we’re reactive to a lot of the issues that we’re talking about when we could be a lot more proactive with little energy to have more meaningful, long standing change at the end of the day.
Jeb Brugmann Loving it. So you’ve highlighted bringing people into a process from which there normally isn’t a place. And Patti, you basically said the same thing, if I can just add, which is there’s also the part of being on the front line with that community. And I think a lot of us from our comfortable positions, particularly for professionalized in some kind of policy or change or programmatic thing where we get way too far from the front line so we become blind to what the where the power is and what the changes. We have. 4 minutes and 40 seconds left. How can local government be leveraged better or show up better to accelerate the work that you’re doing? And and again, you’re lucky when you have a strong leader who sort of says, I’ve created this space for you, go get them however you come. But if we can, you mentioned the three spider-men. If we just talk about municipalities or regional government, how can they be leveraged better?
Margaret Pfoh Yeah, I’ve seen it happen multiple times, not only in the province of British Columbia but across Canada, where mayors have reached out directly to say we’ve got an issue happening in our community. What can you bring to the table to help us, you know, resolve these issues, whether it’s housing, whether it’s homelessness, whether it’s, you know, just just somebody knocking on their door saying, I’ve moved to the region, haven’t found a place to live in six months, We’ve seen evidence of of mayors and municipalities take that proactive step of reaching out to the housing experts and say this is an issue. How can we work with you? And one particular example is Surrey. They created a scam lab which included not only our Oregon organization but other indigenous leadership at their table to help drive the solutions within the city of Surrey, who, because of the growth in the economic crisis in Vancouver, saw an exponential growth of indigenous migration into the city of Surrey because people couldn’t afford Vancouver. And so they took a very proactive step. And there are many lessons to be learned by them, including, as my colleague down there said, you know, including their voices at the beginning of the discussion, as opposed to we have a problem, it involves indigenous people, we’ve got a framework. Now tell us if this is going to work. They included indigenous people at the beginning of those discussions to help drive their solutions. Great.
Jeb Brugmann Thank you.
Patti Pon I think it’s the back to the I think, as Mary said, we nationalize the problem, we localize the solution. And so we’re the ones cities are the ones and the on the ground in the front lines. We’re the ones experiencing it. We’re the ones who have to drive over those potholes or walk around the sidewalk or whatever that is. So I think it is a time for cities to rise. And if you feel like you don’t have the leadership, then go find those coconspirators who do. And together the power of three. I always say, if you feel like you’re powerless, go find two others who feel like that too. And then when you’re three, you’re good. And I would also say, for those of you who maybe you host conferences like this or conversation. Nations like this in your community have more panels that look like us who can speak to our own lived experience. You know, today we’re we’re the only panel so far where Jeb’s in the minority. That’s a problem. We don’t have enough leaders in these roles yet. So give them a leg up. Go invite them. And if you don’t know them, then surely to goodness, you know somebody who looks like me in your community, ask them. That will be huge. And it will empower people to feel like they’re being heard. And that’s really important in this day and age.
Jeb Brugmann Thanks, Patti. Alkarim, how is local government going to carry on and how can you leverage it more now that you’ve got a model?
Alkarim Devani Yeah, I think forever, like the gatekeepers have been at the toll and we’ve seen a lot of things struggle because of the gatekeeper mentality. But I would say that people have started to shift the conversation and we’re starting to see more alignment in government than we’ve ever seen. I can’t help but continue to think like this is for the community, by the community. And that’s what I think the clear message, the takeaway for me is like the solutions are coming from the people that matter the most, and we need to empower those voices even more. And so I would say the government is getting on board. We need to continue to get louder. And the reason I have said why I’m so optimistic is we’re facing a multitude of some significant crises, and I hate the word crises as well. But the one thing it does do is it creates a sense of urgency. And so the refreshing thing for me is like everyone knows the problem is there. It’s enlightening people. They feel empowered to have these conversations and they feel like their voices are being heard. I don’t want to not leave you any time.
Jeb Brugmann So yeah. What’s success look like?
Prentiss Dantzler Printed the million dollar question. So for me it’s really thinking about how can we work together and different types of collaborations, right? And so the person living on the street or staying on the street at night doesn’t know what the jurisdictions are for Toronto versus Etobicoke versus somewhere else. The person that gets evicted from their place is going to have to go somewhere else. And usually a lot of our receiving smaller communities are having heightened higher housing pressures because of this dynamic and so really thinking about what our collaborations are. I want to give a shout out to Don and Dave. I have this kind of report thinking about regionalism and more governance structures, and I think in those directions we can create more meaningful collaborations across different system, the government, but also different sectors of their space, including the private sector and nonprofit sector.
Jeb Brugmann Thanks very much, everyone. Great conversation.