Why do local governments matter now more than ever?

Joining CUI host Mary Rowe for our next session “Cities in the time of COVID-19: Why do local governments matter now more than ever?” are Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi; Nigel Jacob, co-founder of New Urban Mechanics; and Andrea Reimer, Adjunct Professor of Practice and Practitioner Lead, Global Policy Project, UBC School of Public Policy & Global Affairs.

5 Key

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Urban issues are human issues

With the majority of people living in cities worldwide, urban issues are human issues. Nigel Jacob, Co-Founder of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics in the City of Boston, emphasizes the importance of starting conversations about municipal service innovation with a resident-first mindset. Bureaucratic considerations should come after: “When you go [first] to the impact on someone’s life, you’re required to re-order the machinery.”

2. 21st century problems require 21st century powers

The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the challenges facing local governments in the Canadian federation. As “creatures of the province”, they are not recognized constitutionally and derive all of their powers from the will of the provinces. As a result, Canadian municipalities lack the powers, financial tools, and autonomy to meet the needs of their residents. Andrea Reimer, Practitioner Lead at the Global Policy Project, warns that cities face 21st century problems and need 21st century tools to solve them. Mayor Naheed Nenshi agrees, but also adds that constitutional conversations must not distract from immediate, on-the-ground priorities of getting money into the hands of municipalities.

3. Creating room for experimentation

All of the speakers agree that fostering a culture of innovation in local government is critical. Transformative agile governance requires the flexibility to try, succeed, fail, and iterate. Says Mayor Nenshi, “If we want government to innovate, we have to be prepared to celebrate the failures [of public servants] in addition to their successes.” While there are real consequences to public sector decisions, adds an attendee in the chat, “we can’t treat every decision like faulty steel on a bridge.” Reimer identifies three kinds of actors that need to buy into a project or decision: the public, the staff, and elected officials. When one of these players wants to do something, it is an idea. When two agree to do something, it becomes a pilot. And when all three are on board, that’s when transformative change happens. Often, she argues, pilots are designed to secure the buy-in of a reluctant third player.

4. Livability and legibility must be front and centre

Citizens often do not know which level of government is in charge of providing a particular service. According to Jacob, city staff and processes must make themselves and their decisions radically accessible and legible to everyday people. When it comes to public engagement, bringing our whole selves to conversations with the public means setting aside departmental responsibilities and listening to residents’ concerns, even if they are the responsibility of a different division or order of government.

5. An opportunity to redesign the city

COVID and the greater public awareness of anti-black racism have been important and disruptive forces through the last eight months—with windows for change that we must not squander. For example, whereas questions about defunding the police are thought of in binary terms—you either do it or you do not—Jacob warns that this is a false binary. This is a design question—how do we redesign policing so that we have a new set of criteria that better serve the needs of the public?


Full Panel

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 events@canurb.org with “transcription” in the subject line.

Mary Rowe [00:00:19] Hi everybody, it’s Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute, I’m pleased to welcome you on a reflective day, I would say, here in Canada, north of the border of the US, as we watch what is taking place there before our eyes. Democracy in action. I’m speaking to you today from the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. And Turtle Island is home to many First Nations, Inuit and Metis people. It’s covered by the Williams Treaty and by several other treaties that were signed with different Annishnabec nations. And by 2013, I think that we start to see we start these city talks always with a somber recognition that urbanism has been traditionally exclusionary. It’s been systemically reinforcing all sorts of unfortunate systemic racism and different kinds of patterns that are unequal and reinforce inequality and we’re coming to terms with that. We’re trying to determine what our role is and reckoning with that and also in terms of the future and how do we build cities in different kinds of ways as we move forward. And this session is particularly poignant, I think, because we were talking about why do local governments matter? And as we watch an election unfold below us, that is not about local governments, but actually about national and state governments, I think it brings into extra relief why this is such a fundamentally important conversation for us to be having. I sometimes take solace in that myself, that I made a career choice a number of years ago, that I was going to focus on the local, because I feel that that’s where you can really have an impact and where you can make a difference to people’s lives. And and I take some some solace in that when I feel so many other things are out of our control that we can actually make a difference to the park near us, to the street near us. When I went and bought my coffee this morning in a small business near me, I walked by a school where the kids were lining up to go to class with their masks on. I passed a number of parents and caregivers taking children to school and just reminded myself that this is where life happens, is on our streets, in our neighborhoods. And I’m really pleased that we have a couple of folks to join us today, Nigel Jacob and Andrea Reimer, who are going to join us with the Mayor of Calgary to talk about why do why does local government matter. And we have the Mayor of Calgary just arriving. And Mayor, I’m afraid your your camera has you horizontally oriented.


Naheed Nenshi [00:02:53] How come you’re vertical and I’m horizontal?


Mary Rowe [00:02:55] One of those dilemmas, isn’t it? So thank you for joining us. We know I was just doing the intro and I know that you had to take an emergency call. So we’re very appreciative that you’re fitting us into your schedule.


Naheed Nenshi [00:03:04] I’m super, super happy to be here. I apologize. I’m a few minutes late. I one would classify as an emergency call. I would really classify it as my inability to follow simple directions or tell time. But here we are.


Mary Rowe [00:03:18] Well, we’re happy to have you. And I was just starting on a bit of a somber note, Mayor, because I was suggesting that while we watch the events to the south of the border and Nigel Jacob is working and living in Boston and I spent 15 years working in U.S., and I’m a dual citizen, too. And it’s a it’s a sober moment, I think, for those of us watching democracy in action and how it brings into relief, I think why local government matters and what you’re going to address. So before you actually start, I’m just going to acknowledge that Nigel and Andrea are going to, they’re not going away. They’re just going to fade into the background while we listen to the Mayor for about twenty five minutes and then we’ll be back for a collaborative conversation. Those of you that are tuning in from across North America and we often have Europeans coming in of these calls and we were very happy to have you. This is a safe place for us to have an exchange about what we’re seeing happening. And we have titled the series Cities in the Time of COVID-19 and we’ve been evolving over time, different topics, different conversations. And we encourage you to sign in on the chat, tell us where you’re watching from and then participate in the chat. And you can raise questions there that I can then feed into the group. Or you can sometimes what happens is people answer each other in the chat, which is terrific.


Mary Rowe [00:04:27] The Mayor is actually kicking off an initiative that CUI is leading called the Municipal Leadership Forum. And it’s a sort of a special focus for people working in local government. And they are with us today. There’s about 80 of them coming from Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Ottawa, Ottawa, Montreal. And then they are going to carry on weekly in special sessions to specifically start tackling what are the challenges that municipal government staff are facing and how do they need to change the way they do their work? What skills do they need to acquire? And as we know, and I’m sure the Mayor will reinforce during COVID, the burden on municipal government has been extraordinary and the staff have had to perform Herculean things, tasks. Nigel, I can see him nodding. And Andrea, former city councilor Vancouver, knows exactly what we’re talking about. They’ve had to think on the ground and be resourceful and that is going to continue apace as we continue to cope with COVID and then whatever cities look like after, so that special investment in time starts this weekend. But this session is open to the public and we’re very appreciative to have a more diverse group of folks participating today from different sectors and different aspects of urbanism that will inform that cohort, those 80 that will carry on to talk about the real challenges that local government and people that are in public service at the local level are facing. So we’re appreciative to have that of that group on this call. So welcome, everybody. And we’re looking forward to having you on Friday and subsequent Fridays together. So to start us off, we asked the Mayor if he would join us and give us his perspective. Having served as the Mayor of Calgary for a number of years, having brought the broad, broad perspective, Calgary being, of course, in many ways prophetic in some of the challenges that its downtown was facing even before COVID. And now here it is also on top of an economic crisis dealing with. It’s also had an environmental crisis in during your tenure as Mayor and now you’ve got COVID and and all the economic and social challenges that you’re facing. So we hand the podium over to you at CityTalk and appreciative to hear your insights and as I suggest will fade away and I’ll come back when you’re done and we’ll have a group conversation. So over to you, Mayor, to talk about why do local governments matter.


Naheed Nenshi [00:06:38] Wonderful. Thank you so much, Mary. [00:06:42]Merci tout le monde. C’est vraiment mon plaisir d’être parmi vous ces jours ci. Ces jours si important dans l’histoire de notre communique. [2.0s] I’m really happy to be here with all of you this morning. And thank you so much, Mary, for inviting me. I know that I am just the warm up act here for Nigel and Andrea, who are the people you’re really here to see, but I thought that perhaps I could put some thoughts around framing the conversation that we’re all going to be having moving forward on many important issues. I’m going to try and be a little bit short today so that we have plenty of time for dialog. And I assume that given what people are thinking about, about democracy, about what’s happening to our neighbor in the south, that people may want to chat about that stuff. So I’m happy to give you my perspective on some of those things as well. I should point out that my setup here, which is not only weirdly vertical, you’re seeing way more Naheed than you normally would, but it also doesn’t allow me to see the chat very well so I can kind of see things pop up on the screen. But if you’ve got a really critical question, put it in that chat in all caps and I’ll stop and I’ll read it and we’ll go from there. But first of all, let me say thank you to all of you for the work you do.


Naheed Nenshi [00:08:12] Now, more than ever, we are reminded of how important it is for us to have a public sector that works, a public sector that works well for our communities and for our citizens. So as Mary pointed out, I’ve been Mayor for a long time. In fact, I’m celebrating my 10th anniversary as Mayor of Calgary. And in that time, we have gone through economic booms and economic downturns, the second largest natural disaster in Canadian history, at the time it was the largest natural disaster in Canadian history, the third largest natural disaster in Canadian history, a public health pandemic, a mental health pandemic, reckoning on the issues of racism, a climate crisis. So basically, I’m really giving you a wonderful commercial for how great it is to be the Mayor and how great it is to be in public service. In reality though, in reality though these are times where we are reminded of the importance of the community, the importance of public service and the importance of what we are trying to accomplish here together. So obviously, I’ve got a big bias in favor of local government and, you know, I want to be careful though because often in these conversations we get a bunch of people who all think the same thing, talking to one another and making ourselves feel good about it. I call it intellectual masturbation, feels good for a few minutes, but ultimately not very productive. And so I hope that I will lay out some thoughts for you to think about how we can do even better serving our citizens and doing the work that we do know. The City of Calgary, for the last 10 years, we’ve been undergoing a process that we call Transforming Government. And what that really means is putting the citizen and the needs of the citizen at the center of every single thing that we do. In every water cooler and elevator at the city of Calgary, you’ll see the simple mantra that we try to live by as public servants, and that is “making life better every day.” So I’ve got about fifteen thousand colleagues at the city of Calgary. They drive busses and they clear streets. They are the first on the scene in a disaster. They’re the voice on the other end of the phone when you make the most terrifying phone call of your life. They give us a gift that a billion people in the world don’t have, which is the gift of safe, clean drinking water every single day. They look after our waste in our recycling. They look after a green spaces. They teach our kids how to swim. And the work they do every single day, whether it’s on the front lines or if it’s in all the services that are needed to make sure that those other services work is noble work and it’s important work, and for 10 years now it has been my privilege to join them in that work and I’m very proud of all of my colleagues, whether they drive a snow plow or a garbage truck or they work in an office, they are making life better every day. But that is the critical question. And I turn to my colleagues often and I say, you should be asking yourself many, many times a day a very simple question: how is what I am doing right now making it better for someone to live here? And if what I’m doing right now is not making it better for someone to live here, why am I doing it and what should I be doing instead?


Naheed Nenshi [00:12:02] And I think these are really the basic, simple things that we need to ask ourselves in order to think about how local government can become even more effective. So I’m happy to talk more about thoughts on government, but I actually do want to talk a little bit about some of the things that come to mind right now. And as I suggested before, we’re dealing here in Calgary with an interesting situation that most everyone in the country is dealing with, perhaps more profoundly. So first of all, of course, we have a public health crisis and our primary job right now is to keep people healthy, safe and alive. And that’s why we have to do an enormous amount of work to manage this pandemic, and I don’t know how many local leaders, especially in a city like Calgary where the public health department is not part of the city structure, it’s part of the provincial structure. How many of us thought that we would be spending our professional lives managing a pandemic? But the public health crisis is not the only thing that’s going on right now. We also have a mental health and addictions crisis and that mental health and addictions crisis has been with us, it’s not going anywhere, but it has been exacerbated by the public health crisis. Of course, across this country, we have lost far more people to opioid overdose than we have lost to COVID-19 in the same time period. And so we have to think hard about what this mental health crisis is doing and how dealing with the pandemic is exacerbating this problem that we’ve already have. I’ve chosen to make my third term as Mayor primarily focused on issues of mental health, and this has really shown just how important that is. Third, we’re facing an economic reckoning and it’s easy for people in other parts of the country to say, well, that’s because that’s the old economy in Alberta that is transitioning and it’s their own doing and they’ve got to manage it. But there’s so much more to it than that. I want you to think about being a Calgarian for a moment. We went from having the lowest unemployment rate in Canada for many, many, many years, and although our politicians complained about it, we were secretly quite happy that we were able to look after the rest of the Federation with the wealth that we have, whether it is taking people and giving them the opportunity to live their dreams in this place from other parts of the country, or if it was singularly the fact that the energy sector remains even now one of the primary economic engines of the country. We went from having the lowest unemployment rate in the country to the highest in 18 months. We went from having essentially zero percent downtown vacancy to one third of those buildings in downtown Calgary are empty. We have more vacant office space in Calgary than there is office space in Winnipeg. That happened in 18 months, so you can imagine how jarring that is and how dislocating that is for a lot of people, it really gets to their entire sense of identity. And then we look at COVID and COVID has laid bare so many of the weaknesses in our economy, perhaps I’ll share just one with you.


Naheed Nenshi [00:15:22] In every one of our cities, there are hundreds and thousands of people, many of them live in the neighborhood I live in. They get up very early in the morning and take the bus to work. Most of them are women. Most of them are new Canadians. And they go to work at long term care centers where they wake our grandparents up and change their diapers and get them ready for breakfast. They’re only given 30 hours a week so that they don’t have to have benefits paid. So when they finished the lunch shift, they get on another bus and travel across the city to their second full time job in another long term care center, doing it again for the dinner shifts. And this is what they do to put food on the table and they still don’t get benefits by the way. And now we laud them and we call them essential workers. But at the same time, we’ve created a class of folks who are chronically underpaid, who cannot get out of the poverty trap, are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week. And we never think about, we never talk about, we never think about building a city for. And so these are the sorts of things that I’ve been thinking about a lot during this pandemic, about what’s the economic crisis, meaning what does a recovery mean, what does an equitable recovery mean? What does building back better to use the cliche mean? And of course, all of this is going on in the context of a long delayed and critical conversation about what it means to be truly anti-racist in our community. How do we reconcile two different things? Number one is that we have built on this place one of the most critically, I shouldn’t say critical, one of the best, most pluralistic societies in all of human history. And we have much to celebrate in terms of that inclusion, that pluralism and that diversity, can we hold that thought in our mind at the exact moment that we hold in our mind the thought that we’re not done. That for too many of our neighbors, particularly black and Indigenous, as well as people of color, that we haven’t done enough if they don’t experience the same society that the rest of us are lucky enough to experience. In short, how do we go from being multicultural and pluralistic to being actively anti-racist and how do we do that within our government organizations? So this summer, City Council in Calgary had a remarkable four days of public hearings where people told us their stories. He told us their stories of the police. They told us their story with employers. They told us their stories with the City of Calgary is an employer. And for me I was both surprised and not surprised. As a person of color certainly these are stories that proved my whole life and stories I’ve experienced. But at the same time, as a leader as someone who’s been in this job for 10 years, the fact that this is still going on for so many of our neighbors was an eye opener for me. And at that point, Council unanimously agreed that systemic racism exists in our city, in our institutions and our police service. They also agreed that not only do we need an anti-racism plan for our community, we need an anti-racism plan for our organization. You know, the City of Calgary hires a very diverse workforce, but in my top 50 managers there is not one permanent person who is visibly nonwhite. So we’re hiring a diverse workforce, but we’re not promoting them. So how do we reconcile that, how do we make sure that we, as an employer, as an organization, are also actively anti-racist?


Naheed Nenshi [00:19:18] So in the context of all of that, I want to throw some nuggets out for things I think that we need to think about further and we need to think about more. The first has to do with the role of the federal and provincial governments. By the way, if you ever want to irritate me and I know that my former colleague Brian Pincott is in the audience today, and I know he will agree that the swiftest way to irritate me is to use the term levels of government. And in fact, if you say senior levels of government, I might punch you in the throat. We got to get away from this hierarchical thinking. We’ve got to understand that in this country, there are three orders of government. And your pecking order in the taxation roles is not what defines your importance. Indeed, the size of the operating budget doesn’t dictate the work. If it did then cities would have a lot more money. But ultimately, we all have things we have to do. And I don’t need to convince any of you at a Urban Institute event that the real work happens at the municipal level. The important work in the meaningful work happens at the municipal level. Sometimes I joke that if the federal government disappeared while we were on this call, it’d probably be a week or two before anyone noticed. If your provincial government disappeared, you’d notice pretty quick if you were in the hospital or in school. But if your city government disappeared and there were no roads, no transit, no waste and recycling collection and no clean water, and no first responders, and no 911, well you’d notice pretty quick because you’d be dead. And so our great privilege is to actually do this work every single day for people. So given that, we have to also understand, and this is just for Mary to feel good, that it’s for all of us to feel good, that we live at a unique point in human history, and that unique point is that for the first time in human history, the majority of humanity lives in cities. We are an urban world and it will get even more urban. So increasingly, urban issues are human issues. Urban issues are real issues for real people every single day. And that’s how we have to continue to fight on this. So that is an eighty two percent of Canadians, by the way, live in cities, you all know that already, but the ability of us to deliver services has really stagnated.


Naheed Nenshi [00:21:48] So I do want to talk just for a moment, I’m going to go quickly through the route through this so we can get to the dialog, about some issues that I think are critical here. The first is tax reform. The property tax is the worst way to tax people. It’s unfair and it’s regressive and it’s not flexible. And particularly at a time like this, it doesn’t care whether you had a good year or a bad year. It only cares about what a real estate agent might make for selling your property or your landlord’s property. And so it is time for us to have fundamental and complicated questions on tax reform, to think about how we can get rid of our reliance on the property tax. I saw someone wrote in caps: it’s killing small businesses. Hell, yeah, it is. And we need to figure out a better way of doing this. And we need to get beyond the pejorative conversations that say any time the Mayor talks about tax reform, it’s he wants new taxes. He’s a tax grabber. We need to get over it. And we need to actually be able to say we can have something better, we can do a better job that is more responsive, that helps entrepreneurs build wealth in their own small businesses and helps community succeed. And we’ve got to figure out how to get together, particularly with our provincial governments, on that. Ultimately, we have the power to change lives at the city level, and that is really the most critical thing that we need to think about.


Naheed Nenshi [00:23:14] So I want to talk to you for a moment about why we do what we do. And I want to talk about urban design in that context just for a minute. Gosh, I was going to say 15 years ago, that’s not right, no, it is right. 15 years ago, I was a volunteer with Brian Pincott, who later became a city councilor on a project called Imagine Calgary. And Imagine Calgary was about creating a hundred year vision for Calgary. And my job as a volunteer was to go through what eighteen thousand Calgarian said about their future and try and synthesize that into a one page vision. It was actually easier than you might think because there was remarkable unanimity in what people were saying when we asked them what kind of a community do you want to live in? Everyone said the same thing. I want to live in a neighborhood where I can walk to the store. I want to live in a neighborhood where my kids can walk to school. I want to live in a neighborhood with my parents and grandparents can live nearby because free babysitting. I want to live in a neighborhood where my family doesn’t need a car to go everywhere. I want to live in a neighborhood where my kids are exposed to people different than us. And so leads to an interesting question: if we know that’s what people wants, why aren’t we building it? What is the gap here that is preventing us from giving people what they want and what they need? And that simple question was the basis of the urban transformation of Calgary. And in fact, Brian Pincott, I’m sure all you do all day is watch City Council meetings. But yesterday we actually adopted our new municipal development plan, which is the second version of the municipal development plan based on those principles and the city we’re building today is completely different than the city we were building 15 years ago. This stuff really matters.


Naheed Nenshi [00:25:11] I have a bunch in here about emergency response, I think I’ll skip it because I really want to get to the dialog, but I’ll maybe I’ll end by talking about innovation and the need for us to think differently and the need for us to think in a fundamentally transformational way about how we build cities, about how we run cities, about how we create wealth in cities. You know, every single one of your cities, I’m sure every time you develop a strategic plan, spends a ton of time coming up with what are our key priorities, what are our major strategies, and you hire consultants and you do roundtables and you think about it. By the way, you all come up with exactly the same thing. And I’ll tell you how we say it at the City of Calgary. Five things: a city that moves, a healthy and green city, a city of safe and inspiring neighborhoods, a prosperous city, and a well-run city. Always the same. So I just saved you so much time and money and consultant fees, unless, of course, you’d like to hire me as a consultant. I need a side hustle because this Mayor thing’s not nearly busy enough. But when you think about those things, mobility, city building, environment, public health, economic prosperity, transforming government, they’re always the same things. The thread that brings them together is how we be innovative, how we think in different and new ways. Governments are not known to be innovative, but ultimately we have the ability to do that. We have the ability to think in transformational ways and make extraordinary change. And that’s really what I want to inspire you to do. To use this time when we’re responding to a pandemic would run off our feet when we’re exhausted to also think brightly about the future, about what is possible for us to bring together and what is possible for us to build going forward together as a community. Because ultimately, you perform miracles every day. You move people around the city, you respond to their emergencies, you help them build their lives and achieve their dreams. This stuff matters and it matters now more than ever, and I know you’re exhausted. I’m exhausted and I never get exhausted. And I know that you and so many people in your families and in your communities are in a sense of grief right now. Not because of election results in another country, but because we feel like we’ve given up so much and we’ve lost so much in this year. That’s OK, that’s human, we’re all in the boat together. But I hope as well that this time, this difficult time for all of us, is giving you an opportunity to think about what we’re doing and what we are building together, 10 years ago when I was privileged and blessed to start this job and every single day, I’m still humbled by it, every single day I’m humbled by the fact that I get to put on my pants and go to work and try and make the community better. It’s a real gift and it’s a gift I will never, ever take for granted. Ten years ago when I started in this role I talked about the promise of our community, and it feels right to repeat that promise with all of you today. And that promise is that in our community, it doesn’t matter what you look like or where you come from, it doesn’t matter if your family has been here for millennia or you arrived last week from a refugee camp, it doesn’t matter how you worship or who you love. What matters is that you’re here and you belong here and you deserve to be here and you deserve to be in a place of safety, in a place of opportunity and a place of prosperity for you and your children and their children and their children. Ultimately, every single person lucky enough to share this land deserves right here, right now to live a great Canadian life. That’s the promise. That’s what I’ve been privileged to work on every single day. That’s what every one of you is privileged to work on. So thank you to every one of you for keeping that promise. And the promise that I broke is the promise I’ve been breaking every single time I speak for the last 10 years, which is the promise that I will speak for a short period so that we’ll have more time for dialog. That said, I’ll stop now. Thank you all.


Mary Rowe [00:29:54] Thank you, Mr. Mayor. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, wonderful to re-to recommit us all to why we’re in this, why we care about our places and the people that live here and around us. So I’m going to invite Andrea and Nigel to turn their cameras back on and we’re going to have a collective conversation. While they’re doing I just want to acknowledge that the Mayor is speaking off, obviously, directly to the fifteen thousand people that work for the City of Calgary and the thousands of others that are involved in municipal governments as employees across the country. And Nigel, who’s in Boston, a municipal employee from the Office for Mechanics, but he’s also speaking to all of us in civil society and other levels of other orders of government. Mr. Mayor. And industry leaders who are committed to making differences in lives and in places, that the place that we live in and work in matters and it affects our lives. So I appreciate the inspiration you just provided. There are sponsors for this series that have also stepped up and who are recognizing exactly what the Mayor was citing. And that I know Andrea and Nigel will reinforce that municipal government staff are critical to the delivery of our experience as Canadians. I thought it was so eloquent the way you put that, Mr. Mayor, and people’s experience of it as a Canadian is largely affected by the services that are actually delivered to them by the local government. And so I just want to acknowledge that that’s Apolitical in Britain, which is an enormous network of public servants working at all levels of government, they are a sponsor, so is the Institute of Public Administration in Canada, which is a people that work in government across the country, and the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership at the Ivey Business School and the Canadian Municipal Barometer. And they are with us for the duration of this series over the next several weeks. And again, we’re looking forward to continuing to work with them and with others, trying to bring the absolute best knowledge and expertise and and learning environments to do all the things that you were just suggesting municipal government employees need to do around innovation and all those things. So I’m going to go to you first, Andrea, if you’re happy. Former city councilor and Vancouver and as people know we don’t do long introductions on these things. We put them up in the chat. You can look Andrea up. And if you could just start with a bit of a response to the Mayor, then I’m going to ask you to do the same thing and then we’ll just start a collective conversation and people, by all means, post some stuff in the chat to all of us, make sure its panelists and attendees, if you didn’t if you don’t use caps, that will help because it’s hard for me to read them if they’re all caps. The other thing is this is an extended city talk. We appreciate the Mayor giving us enough time. So we’re actually going for 90 minutes, which means we have a good chunk of time. So, Andrea, over to you first and then Nigel.


Andrea Reimer [00:32:22] Thanks, Mary, and hello to everyone joining us. My name is Andrea Reimer. As you can see in my little Hollywood Square here, I’m coming to you from East Vancouver, which is on the traditional and unseated homelands of the Musqueam, Squamish and the Tsleil-Waututh people. And I was very grateful for the welcome that they give to us here in East Vancouver, but Vancouver in the Lower Mainland generally. So I’m kind of glad we’re not in person. So just for context, Mayor Nenshi and I went to junior high school together. So we have we go way back.


Naheed Nenshi [00:32:54] We sure do. One of us succeeded in life and the other one became the Mayor.


Andrea Reimer [00:33:00] Yeah. Yeah. And how funny, right. That we both ended up in local government and then out of local government. This week is actually my anniversary of leaving office after 10 years. I chose not to run again in 2018, in part because I wanted to see what else was out there in the world. But really one of the things, probably the single largest contributing factor was Trump getting elected in 2016. I just felt like, so the symmetry right to be here today with Mayor Nenshi celebrating his 10th anniversary. And I still wondering how a country could even be close in reelecting Donald Trump. Watching him get elected I just sort of felt like democracy, something had to be wrong with democracy if it could produce that result. Right. It’s like if a machine in your house is doing something and is able to create that kind of catastrophe, then you’ve got to take it apart and try and figure out what went wrong with the machine. So I’ve been on a bit of a journey the last couple years. I was at Harvard for a year on a fellowship studying democracy in power and now and back in Vancouver and I teach at the University of British Columbia about power and engagement. I also teach at LSU and I have some consulting clients. Mayor Nenshi, happy to consult with you about how to get clients if you need help with that, although I think it’d be tough while you’re still Mayor. So in response to what you said, I guess I’d be glad that we’re not in person because you might have to punch me in the throat. I think those were the words you used about people who use words like this, but it’s not the words that matter. It’s the constitutional authority and the reality is cities are a junior partner as far as our constitutional authorities are concerned. Therefore, there are senior levels of government. They may not be senior levels in terms of moral authority or understanding of what’s going on for the vast majority of people in this country who do live in cities and urban environments. But they are, in fact, the ones with the checkbooks and the ones with the legislative capacity to be able to meet the modern challenges that people are facing in Canada in any place, but particularly cities. I think that has never been more clear in my lifetime than during the pandemic. Like, it’s not it’s not your name or Kennedy Stewart. In fact, it’s a bit of a game in Vancouver to see what name people give to the Mayor of Vancouver. Most people wouldn’t be able to name him off a list of names because he’s-


Naheed Nenshi [00:35:19] Really?


Andrea Reimer [00:35:20] Oh, absolutely. I’ve heard him called everything from John Kennedy to Stuart Kennedy to Stuart to like you name it. Right. So that’s that’s because he he came to office at a time when he’s been totally crowded out by Trudeau and Horgan and Kenny and Mo and all the people that are taking headlines, which are the people that lead the senior levels of government. Some of that is as it should be. I think I would say that during a pandemic you want in the provinces where we had cities sort of jumping out and I saw it in the states a lot, where cities were sort of trying to contain the pandemic one by one. It’s not a coordinated response and it wasn’t an effective response. Right. So I think these senior levels of government being able to respond as the crisis was breaking makes sense. But what it’s meant that in the recovery stage, it hasn’t made sense at all because we have these senior levels of government largely populated by elected representatives who aren’t from core urban areas, trying to come up with recovery strategies that make no sense at all for poor urban areas. We’ve seen the greatest job loss by far in the urban core of cities like Vancouver and Toronto, and they’re trying to stimulate the economy as though it’s like the middle of the 1980s and that recession hitting. Right, which was a totally different recession. So the things like the housing crisis, which I would argue is an inequality crisis. I know Mayor Nenshi, it’s not a huge issue right now in Calgary because the economy-


Naheed Nenshi [00:36:52] Oh it’s a huge issue. It’s OK. It’s different. It’s different than in Vancouver, but it’s a huge issue.


Andrea Reimer [00:36:56] Right. And so you probably have the same challenge we do that until it’s a huge issue in Leduc or Innisfail or wherever, the provincial government is not going to pay attention to it. Here in Vancouver. We had the crisis for ten years before we were able to draw attention from a government whose representatives are elected from Atlin and from Smithers and from all these small communities that didn’t, I mean they now are experiencing housing crisis, but if people, if Vancouver would have had the power to innovate and put in its own taxation and legislative responses to the housing crisis, we wouldn’t have seen it spread through the province and we would have had solutions even if it did, that had already been innovated. The trauma crisis. I take some exception to the characterization of it as a mental health and addiction crisis. What’s happened to urban Indigenous people in this country is not because they have poor mental health. It’s because they’ve experienced massive levels of trauma as a result of colonization and that has led to drug use as one of the ways that they try to control the pain that results from that trauma. It’s all to say that it’s the 21st century, we don’t have, we have 21st century problems, but not 21st century tools for resolving it. And until cities have money, power and respect, that that’s not going to change, in my opinion. And I think the pandemic would be this perfect opportunity to give cities, cities like Calgary and Vancouver and Toronto who have charters that could accommodate the ability for the province to give some more rope to cities to be able to innovate some of these fiscal and legislative solutions. And then look at how we roll those out across the country to all of the cities that are desperately in need of the ability to make rules, integrate taxation structures that meet the needs of their residents, which is, Mayor Nenshi pointed out, are not property tax. All this tax on the planet goes back 5000 years and hasn’t met the modern needs of cities for at least one hundred of those.


Mary Rowe [00:38:52] Thanks, Andrea. Mayor if you’re OK, I’d like to get Nigel in and then I’m hoping you’re keeping a few notes and then you can start to reply. But Nigel, let’s hear from you, your perspective from the seat that you occupy in Boston.


Nigel Jacob [00:39:05] Thanks a lot, Mary. And it’s great to see you, Mayor and Andrea. We covered a lot of territory in the past few minutes. It’s worth noting, so I am a Canadian living and working in the United States. In Boston, I run the city’s civic innovation group called the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. So my day job is to try to innovate or provide try to push direction in more creative directions. You know, I see a lot of what the Mayor said resonates with me. Certainly in this moment, COVID-19 has crowded, has sort of reset the playing field in so many ways. So trying to figure out public education in this moment and and trying to figure out how to continue to deliver high quality services are sort of dominating or taking up all the air in the room. But in the midst of that, there was this moment of racial racial reckoning. So, you know, race and racial inequity are somehow the foundational aspects of American culture and different places want to acknowledge that in different ways. I live in a city that is often considered to be one of, even though we live right in the middle of a blue state that has always been blue or has been blue for a long time, been very democratic, we are often considered when we think about the most racist cities in America, we’re often near the top. And so that translates into inequalities of every kind of the racial gap, all of the income gaps we see very much here in Boston. And so this isn’t a surprise. It’s not as though we just uncovered some new piece of research and then we’re surprised by. This has been an issue for hundreds of years in our city. And I think that now, as we think about, I think like one of the things when I when I look at what people are asking for. So I think the whole dialog around defunding the police is a fascinating place to start because first of all, like defunding is a very binary notion, right, you either do it or you don’t do it. And I think it’s a false binary. I think that there is this question of that. That’s really a design question to me. Right. So how do we redesign the police while a whole new set of criteria so that serves the needs of the public that are serving the public that we have now and into the future. And so I think that we are both COVID-19 in the public health and public public safety and racial equity context, that it connects very well to to the racial inequity because they’re very related. When you look at the people that are getting sick the most, we see that is people of color, black and brown people. And so I think that in this moment when people are telling us to defund, I think that is a really a very public call to reimagine government. So I think that’s that’s really what the current moment is asking us to do. How do we reconceive what government does? Right. And, you know, I’m here for that. Right? I mean, I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this and in a strange way. And so I think that it is important for us again, I don’t think we have to be opportunistic about it, but I think we need to seize this moment, right, when people where there’s a demand for change. Change in government often comes very slowly for lots of different reasons. Right. And I think that now people are telling us to we have to make two or three or ten jumps further than where we were. I think people are asking incrementalism. Yes, the people get that, but it’s right now, it won’t do that, we need to take big leaps forward. And I think that that local government has to see that through the lens of the services that we that we deploy, like how are we doing them? I think that the what and how we were doing them all require rethinking. And one of the one of the the issues that, you know, pops, that’s been sort of front of mind for us lately is the question of trust. Trust in America is a strange thing. So Americans, strangely enough, don’t don’t trust local government, don’t trust the federal government, government in general. And actually on the side of the Mayor here, where I also get angry, when people call all of it government. I fragment differently. But when people just say, oh, that’s all government. But from my way of thinking federal, state and local government do radically different things. I don’t negotiate trade treaties or anything. My my job is service delivery. Right. In a lot of ways, I’m more like Amazon. It’s about how we get things done. And so in that building, adequate trust between, you know, the institutions of local government and the residents that we serve and across all those those different variations is vital. And so I think that we when you begin to look at what we do in local government through the lens of trust, do people like it? Is it good? Is it, why can’t it be, I know there’s lots of reasons why, but really, why can’t it be beautiful when you think about it. Why can’t it be an engaging experience to connect with government? Right. Because again, as the Mayor was saying, you know, government educates kids. We we handle people’s reentry into the world from incarceration. All these different things that requires a very human response to to engaging with with people. And I think that there is there’s an opportunity to sort of make that the the center point of how we do this job and sort of reimagine government as a as an intensely human way of dealing with the world.


Mary Rowe [00:45:16] Well, when we first came on to do the sound check, when when Andrea signed in, we said, hi, Andrea. And she just said “hm”, a collective sigh as we were coming to terms with the current events around us. I’m hoping the Mayor will put his camera back on. I know he’s been there listening so that we can return and see him. But while we’re waiting for him to do so.


Naheed Nenshi [00:45:38] I’m still here. I was just reading I was just reading the chat and I realize that all you could see was the top of my head and that was probably very distracting, my big, shiny bald spot.


Mary Rowe [00:45:47] Do you want to I mean, there are two levels of conversation that we’ve got going here in terms of Andrea and structural which you raised Mayor around property tax reform. Your impressions in the chat, as you saw, about what would tax reform look like? How do we see how do we see authority changing? Andrea’s been for several years advocating for kind of to not be afraid of the constitutional question and do we need to actually have a different kind of arrangement? I know that, Nigel, you would probably chime in on this as I did it in the US, even with strong mayors there’s no guarantee that municipal governments in the US work any better than they do in situations we’ve got. And there are other people in the chat commenting that even with a charter and we have charters in Canada, some cities that have charters in Canada, and those mayors have not elected to use all those services. So we’ve got a structural conversation going on. And then we’ve got what Nigel was just touching on, the kind of insider conversation. And we’re getting lots of folks who are, I think, work for municipal staff. The work, our staff members asking questions about how to resolve differences. What happens if the elected in the staff don’t agree? What happens if you don’t agree with your colleagues about what actually is making life better and how do you resolve that? So I’ll leave it to you Mayor how you want to tackle sort of the macro and the micro.


Naheed Nenshi [00:46:57] My goodness, I’m not sure where I want to go with this. Maybe I’ll spend a couple of moments on the macro and then it might not be bad to jump in to some of the specific issues that people are interested in whether and put some good some things down in the chat, whether you want to talk about policing reform or transit, or or or or or. I’ll start with the biggest macro, which is just to get a little spiciness in today. I’ve often said and, you know, I’ve been I’ve been studying urban issues for many years. I wrote a little book, gosh, 20 years ago now. And I was just looking at it again and realizing that all of the things I said are the things I still work on every day today about what makes cities work. But even in that book 20 years ago, I said, I don’t actually care about the Constitution. I think it’s an uninteresting question to me. What I care about is money. I just want to figure out how to get the money to do what I need to be able to do. And that money is power as well, of course. But ultimately, you know, we have a city charter in Calgary. I with my team negotiated it. So it’s brand new and it has made zero difference in the lives of Calgarians. In fact, yesterday I’m in the middle of a very long council meeting, and yesterday we had our first three public hearings that would use the city charter and the authorities in the city charter. One of them was establishing a new debt limit policy for the city and basically what we did was we took the province’s old debt limit policy and just copied it. So although it was important work and and we had to do it, it wasn’t exactly blow the doors off innovative and citizens will go, wow, that’s amazing. One of it was about reducing speed limits on residential roads. And ultimately, council chose not to make a decision about that. And one of them was about reducing parking minimums for businesses. We did actually go and do that unanimously, but or more or less unanimously. But these things are in many ways very technical in my mind. What really makes the difference, what makes the difference for citizens is figuring out the money side of the equation. And you know, for many years our city council, so we have, as in many provinces, there’s a city property tax and a provincial property tax, but we collect the most. And so everyone thinks that all goes to the city. And for many years, the city’s position, the council’s position has been the province should just vacate the property tax and give it to us. And I’ve never liked that idea because for me it just increases our reliance on this terrible tax and I understand why the province levies that it’s the only tax they have, which is totally stable. Right, they can rely on the same amount of money every year. So rather than take that away from them, I would like to participate in the unstable part. And so to me, that’s really the critical question here around that, because in my leader, in my leadership practice and what I learned, and I’m sure Andrea learned in her year at Harvard as well, was the concept of work avoidance. That’s when you talk about a problem an awful lot. But you actually don’t do anything about it. You just talk about it. And for me, I’d much rather be in the world of do things look for forgiveness rather than permission. And someone in the in the chat was asking about something, which is my current obsession, which is fast pilots, which is try things, fail quickly, succeed quickly, try something else. That has been a huge, huge, huge cultural shift for my colleagues at the City of Calgary. It’s been very hard, but we’re getting there slowly but surely, just trying, failing, succeeding when we can, scaling things that are succeeding. And so I think that that is really the point that I’d like to make. I can’t argue with my province forever and ever about powers and authorities, but ultimately, I just want to try stuff. And I know that sounds a bit naive, but the province is never going to give me anything. They’re not. They’re just not. We’re never going to get constitutional change. We’ve never had a constitutional amendment in this country since 1982. So my sense of any of this actually happening is poor so I want to live within the stuff I’ve got. But in order to do that I got to have the money. So with that I will say that, you know, I see that my colleague Asif is asking a question. I lost it now, but he was asking a very interesting question about what innovation really means. Such a vague term. But I really do think it is about giving city staff the permission to fail. And, you know, one of the things I often say to my colleagues at the city is, look, give us your best professional opinion. Don’t try to second guess the politics. That’s our job. And it may well be that city council will say no to what you’re saying. But that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. You’re a failure if you don’t give me your best professional opinion. So just yesterday, one of my colleagues at the city had a motion, had a report on something, and basically she’s being asked to do some work that she thinks is a bad idea. And she did an excellent report on it. But I actually asked her straight out, is this a bad idea or should we stop? I want your best professional opinion. And she said this is a bad idea and you should stop. And I said, OK, council, you’ve heard from your professional. So I am putting to you now, I’m making a motion. I left my chair to make a motion. This is a bad idea and we should stop. And of course, it failed because council wanted to do that thing, but it failed eight to six and I had a conversation with the staff member last year and said, do you feel good even though we lost the vote? And she said,” I feel like I honored what I believe in.” And I thought that was awesome. And I said, listen, it would have been 13 to one because I’m the only one who agreed with you at the beginning. But because you said that we got to eight to six. And so ultimately, I think that that is still what people need to work on. I’m talking to much I’ll stop here.


Mary Rowe [00:53:35] No and I think it’s an interesting culture question. I want to ask Nigel, who’s worked in a couple of municipalities, you know, how do you actually, and Andrea you can chime in to from your experience in Vancouver and looking at other cities, this notion of pilots, of encouraging people to try some things and and then and then fail but fail faster we go back to quote. I mean, Nigel how do you experience that in Boston and the other cities that I know that you were in contact with? Is there a growing culture that’s allowing people to try different things and higher?


Nigel Jacob [00:54:08] Yeah. So I think there’s a there’s a this is a big topic. I mean, the idea of the one of the first things that is worth I’m not going to answer, but I’ll mention the question of what is innovation. Right. Which is the central question. I tend to think that innovations are things that affect people’s lives, a resonance. I think focusing on the below the waterline stuff at city hall, bureaucratic tweaks and changes is largely a waste of time because nobody cares. That doesn’t get reelected, that doesn’t actually change the world. But I think that when you go through the effort of trying to impact someone’s life, you discover that you have to find a way to deliver that system or that innovation effectively. And that does then require you to reorder the machinery in order to be able to do that. But starting first with how it impacts people’s lives with a target and intent to affect people’s lives is the way to start. And I think the way that you do that, you’ve got to talk to people. Right. Where do these ideas come from? Talk to people like dissolve the the walls, the city hall, and go and get a sense as to what people are thinking about where they are concerned about. So so I think that’s one way to start. Making yourself radically accessible. I think the question of experimentation is a really good one. And I in my own and in my team’s parlance, we distinguish between pilots and experiments. So I think a pilot is different than an experiment. I think, again, I’m not trying to impugn you, but I think a pilot is something you do when you have some money left over at the end of the funding cycle. I think it’s when IBM gives you a freebie and you do it because you can do it again. I’m certainly willing to talk with this, but in my experience in Boston, I think an experiment is different if the intent is different, right. It is driven by some kind of a, I don’t want to call it a research agenda, but there it is. Right. You’re asking a set of questions about how do you change life in a set of communities or neighborhoods. And so there has to be some kind of a strategy or a goal that’s driving the experimentation rather than simply access to resources. And then I think in order to enable that, the question of like what is the culture of innovation and the culture of change in your institution is vital, right. Are you doing or is the leadership doing things to encourage and support people and taking risks? Right. So taking a risk is- you yourself are taking a risk by stepping forward and saying, I’ve got an idea which may fail. So you have to find a way to manage the risk of of people doing things that might not work out.


Mary Rowe [00:56:49] Nigel can I ask a question and see Andrea could just comment on that because what I’m hearing I mean, we work with the big city managers from sixth largest cities, including mayors across the country, and what we’re hearing from them is that their councils are putting enormous pressure on them to try a whole bunch of new things. And they’re having trouble just keeping up with what they’re doing. They’re trying to give the reality check of, well, wait a second, we’re already doing ABCD. So in your experience as being a council member, how amenable are councils to what Nigel was just describing, where there should be resources available for experiments? And then I’ll come back to Niger to finish your point. Don’t forget where you were.


Andrea Reimer [00:57:25] I mean, I think you have to do the work, right? I mean, I, I put in easily one hundred hours a week when I was on council and most of that was spent building the support from other councilors, from staff, from the constituencies that they look to for validation so that they wouldn’t agree with me and then go out and talk to someone and get like Mayor Nenshi was saying, that’s a bad idea, right? Like, you’ve got to you have got to do a 360 sell, whatever the idea is, and you have to be prepared to hear that it’s a bad idea and figure out how to prevent. I think listening to both Nigel and Mayor Nenshi a couple of things came to mind. One is earlier on in the pandemic, in fact for a good chunk of the period, there was this great shining light where we were experiencing a moment of transformative, agile management in governance in this country. And it was beautiful to see it. I feel like personally, I felt like the minute the WE scandal broke, you could feel that era quickly slamming shut again where governments said we shouldn’t try anymore because we’ll get criticized for trying. But we as as residents and citizens in our communities, I think we need to learn if we want governments to innovate, we also have to be prepared to celebrate their failures, not just their successes, because failure is about learning. Right. And that’s what all of us and how we’re showing up in conversations I was going to say at the dinner table but obviously they would be on Zoom in the modern era with most people or how we’re showing up in social media and in online dialogs. The other thing was around this question of piloting. So I so in my head, there’s sort of like three actors in government. They’re big categories, right? One is the big, very big category, many subcategories. One is the staff, again, a very big category. And then one is a fairly small category, which has more opinions than members, which is the elected officials. So on one day, they might be for something, another day they’re not. If you look at those three actors, if one of them wants to do something, it’s an idea. Right. So if an elected official or even a group want to but staff and the public are like, what are these people doing? You’re not going to get much past the idea stage. If two of them want to do something. You’ve got a pilot, right? And if three of them are aligned, then you’ve got transformative change. Like that’s where you’re able to do the kind of work we were doing in Vancouver when we did the Green City Initiative and radically transformed, lowered our impact on the environment. In housing, I mean, we got we got, the city in Canada that actually got a new tax out of our provincial government. We doubled our fiscal capacity by getting an empty homes tax out of them. Right. It took us eight years of lobbying to get that, but it brought in, instead of having to go to them for a cheque, it brought in fiscal capacity so that you could raise money. I mean, the challenge here is that the goal of that tax is to raise no money because the idea is you have no empty homes. But it shows that it’s possible. It just shows that it’s also a long game. And that’s the game we’ve got to be in it for. If we want to radically update a system that is incredibly out of date.


Mary Rowe [01:00:34] So long game for sure. Nigel do you want to go back and pick up where you were and then I’ll go back to the Mayor. Your muted Nigel.


Nigel Jacob [01:00:43] So with that, I think the point I was making, actually Andrea brought up a couple of points that sort of very, very like, I know this idea of doing the work is vital. And so like one, in my prior comments, I was talking about talking to people. I would, which is a very sort of shorthand way of saying this, but I agree that doing the work is vital and we have to be doing things that are seeing that are that people want us to try and and to help people understand why we’re doing these things. And I think that so in local government, we have to find a way to make space for experimentation. So the way that we think about it is we create a specific team, which is my team, whose job it is to try things right. And so we do that in collaboration with community groups and and public agencies and so on, where we are facilitating translating across boundaries and helping to set the context as to why we need to try these things. And so so I think that you you’re not asking, you know, the core operations team to try out new things. Like the idea is that if you’re doing experiments which could result in a catastrophe, like the garbage won’t get picked up on Monday, wrong, wrong scale, I think that you do need to find you have to create a safe place for people to try things right. And it doesn’t mean that you need to put a lot of money in it frankly. In my in our example, we’re able to sort of tap a variety of different resources in our community to try out new ideas. But the idea is that if we’re doing something, it’s not as though schools won’t open on Monday. So that I’m not a school official, I’m not a public works official, what have you. So the idea is to create a context for that. And the last piece I’ll say there is this question of learning is vital, and I think it’s an underexploited idea in local government. I think gathering data is important, right? Trying new things important. I again, this is in the country in which I work in right now. There is in American cities, there really isn’t a strong culture of learning in local government. So you do and you do an experiment. You do a pilot. What do you do with the results? Is it are the actual results that are answering some kind of a research question? And so and then if so, how do you incorporate that learning into the culture so that it actually informs a policy or a way of doing things and so on? And so I’ve seen a lot of focus on data around the world, but there still is no real culture of learning in most of these places when they’re actually able to do something with all that data they’re capturing.


Mary Rowe [01:03:31] We have one of the members of the CUI board is a senior executive in the transit authority here in Toronto, but she’s worked actually you probably know, Andrea, Kathleen Llewellyn-Thomas. She worked in Vancouver. She’s worked in Halifax. She’s one of those rare public servants that’s worked in many different cities. And her comment was that during amalgamation was all well and good to get the forms all resolved. But until you could actually get to the person who was pouring the concrete and actually understand what their challenge was and what they needed to actually equip them, that there was no point in talking about these other large macro changes. So Mayor Nenshi I’m wondering what you would say about this in terms of what you’re hearing from your colleagues here around the notion of pilot versus experiment. And also, I’m interested if we could merge these concepts. Do you think you could find amenable colleagues at the provincial and federal level who’d be willing to do an experiment with local government?


Naheed Nenshi [01:04:22] There’s so much to respond to there, there’s so much to unpack, I should start by saying thank you all and I stand corrected. I did forget about all those little provincial constitutional amendments, but I don’t think there’s been any that actually impact the whole country. And so, you know, when we think about the issue of pilot versus experiment, I tend not to get hung up on language. I tend to get a bit sloppy with my terminology. But I like the concept of you’re saying, you know, a pilot is when IBM gives you something for free and you’re like, let’s try this new sensor technology, whereas an experiment is a little bit more thoughtful. Someone in the chat was using the word prototyping. I think what’s critical here, though, is understanding the consequences of failure. And we kind of been dancing around that. You know, as Andrea, as Nigel said, as Andrea agreed, if the garbage doesn’t get picked up, that’s the worst thing in the world, right? It really is. And that that’s why the unions are so strong. That’s why the outside union is and maybe I’ve said this to the outside union versus the inside union, which is you have the inside union goes on strike no one will notice. The outside union goes on strike bad things happen once and they know that. But, you know, I was in a, actually this happens to be often but one one point I was in this room with a bunch of venture capitalists and smart money people talking about government and saying, “well, your problem is that you’re too risk averse.” And I’ve just heard it so many times that I got irritated and I actually said, you know, do you understand why? Government workers are risk averse because when you screw up, you’re going to lose a whole bunch, somebody else’s money. You’re not going to lose your house, you’re not going to lose all your cars and you’re going to set up another fund and keep going. But if my procurement person screws up in procuring the steel for a bridge, people are going to die. And that’s why we’re risk averse, because the consequences of failure are extreme, and so getting that balance right in terms of understanding where that risk aversion comes from and understanding where you can be smart about bringing it forward is critical. But here’s the thing, politicians are the worst. Because we say we want you to do all these experiments, we put this enormous pressure on our bureaucracies and then when we screw up, we put our finger on you. And we say, well, you messed that up. And even though you’re not going to get fired, even though no one ever gets fired in this environment, what’s that like going to work every day? And so we as politicians have to take the big step, saying if we expect city workers to do this, then we got to back up our talk by actually protecting people when they make a mistake, by saying this is not unexpected, by not being upset when our own pet projects go wrong. And we’ve got to do that in a political environment that is terribly broken. And we’re not we haven’t been talking much about politics now. But, look, the political environment is terribly broken and Andrea has lived in a different system than me, where it is a party system. I even though my meetings are very long and some of my colleagues drive me crazy, I love that we don’t have a party system, that we all have to figure this stuff out. But increasingly, we are getting, increasingly we are getting more and more partisan, more and more fractured. And so we have to understand that we’ve got to get through this political environment. And sometimes municipal governments are able to do great things. You know my my council unanimously agreed with the existence and condemned the existence of systemic racism in our institutions. And it wasn’t until a month later that Councilor Pincott’s successor who voted for that was talk, was fighting with the police chief when the police chief said we have systemic racism in the police service. Some, like you, just voted for it. Now you’re fighting with the chief. You can’t love the police more than the police themselves, my friend. But this is one of the real issues that we’ve got to be able to sort ourselves out. I just want to highlight sorry, the reason I’m starting and stopping is because I’m trying to keep an eye on the chat on a different screen, which is foolish of me. But I think Alison is making the point that we can’t treat every decision like it’s faulty still on a bridge. And I think that’s exactly the point I’m trying to make, is we got to figure out where the risk makes sense and be really clear about that. There’s a great idea here from Gloria that says to help community by and help the community initiate the innovation. So in Calgary, you’ve got a little thing called the Council Innovation Fund. It’s not much, but it gives council members, city workers and community the opportunity to apply to this fund to try innovative, I was going to say pilot projects now I’m going to call them experiments, to try innovative experiments. You know, here’s one hundred thousand dollars to try traffic calming in your neighborhood, for example. And those sorts of things really help us build that that buy in. But honestly, I don’t think the issue is community buy in. I think the issue is politicians walking the walk as well as managers, especially mid-level managers in our organizations valuing the work.


Mary Rowe [01:10:09] Andrea, do you want to jump in?


Andrea Reimer [01:10:11] Yeah, well, I you know, I gave that three actor example and sort of missed the punch line, which is that if you accept that premise, right, that there’s these three buckets and that one one on board is an idea, two on board is a pilot/experiment, whatever word you want to use, and three is the transformative change moment. You need then the most important thing is, let’s say it’s staff and council have agreed that I don’t know, regulating Airbnb makes a ton of like is the only possible way forward to deal with an aspect of the housing crisis. But the public’s like we’re not sure about this. Well, yeah, my favorite is liquor policy, where every survey ever done by the city resulted in the public saying, I want way more ability for me to drink in public and way less ability for my fellow neighbors to drink in public. Yeah, things like that. Right. So in those cases, if you have two of the actors on board, the job is to design an experiment that is specifically targeted to get the third actor on board. Right. So that means it’s context specific and you really have to analyze it. So I can’t just cut and paste something off Twitter from the from Nigel’s office and be like, this is going to land because maybe theirs was designed to get council on board. Right. Whereas mine’s designed to get the public on board or the staff on board or whatever it is. So you really have to put some analysis into it. I’m not that people don’t. Sorry I’m I’m hedging on the word because I’m like it’s a very it’s like threading the needle, right, within this very narrow set of legislative and fiscal authorities cities have with these massive challenges that Mayor Nenshi did a great job of enumerating at the outset. You have some thin room to move, but we have brilliant staff. That’s the good news, who really understand cities and what these challenges are. And then the other point which I would make is this issue about I mean, I do fight this malignment of parties, like I appreciate at the provincial and federal level and parliamentary democracies. There might be a different republic, the republic or whatever system. Cities with parties like it is a team sport. You need 50 percent plus one to vote with you. You cannot go score a goal alone, no matter how big your title is or how many talks you do. Like your you’re there and you’ve got to get the other people on board. Personally, I prefer both transparency about who those other people are and accountability based on here’s our platform, here’s what we’re running to get done. And if you think you have a lot of meetings and long ones, when you don’t have a party, you cannot imagine how many have to have when you have a publicly accessible document about what you’ve collectively committed to deliver in a constantly shifting environment with low resources. Right. That requires a tremendous amount of negotiation to be able to deliver it in the way that you imagined you would be able to, but didn’t anticipate the pandemic, the housing crisis, the trauma like the falling oil prices, whatever it is that creates the stress on your system. I would argue that parties are actually a much more publicly accountable mechanism in a democracy for creating a social contract, a governance contract with the public.


Mary Rowe [01:13:25] I wonder if we could just for a minute, folks, talk about something very specific that that that regular folks in cities experience, which is around housing. And you had said earlier, Andrea, that people don’t know the name of the Mayor in the Vancouver and my my return to that would be the people have and I think you’ve said it before, Mayor Nenshi. People have no idea which level of government actually is responsible for which function. And they just go about their lives and they don’t really know who does all that. Right. So it’s government. So in terms of housing, the dilemma that I think we’re hearing repeatedly through COVID is that there’s a huge problem with housing. There’s a shortage of affordable housing. The system is broken and it’s almost impossible to to get anybody to take full responsibility because each order of government blames the other. And so can somebody just walk me through in terms of the approach that the three of you are advocating, could we could we solve housing? Nigel, Have you found in the Office of Urban, take that very specific example, is there a way that you’ve been able to use experiments, you’ve been able to move in certain ways to address something directly, that in our, in our grasp.


Nigel Jacob [01:14:29] So yes and no. I mean, so one of the things that there’s a lot of issues like Boston is also has a housing crisis. One of the things that we’re trying to do are find ways to make more trade, provide or encourage more creativity on the building side of housing, housing. So trying to provide looking at the zoning code, trying to make it more susceptible to change. And oftentimes in order to do that, there has to be a public vote and so on. And so oftentimes, you know, it’s a question of, you know, people don’t believe that small houses can work in their neighborhood. Right. Because they think it will just be tenements and will be swallowed and they will be taking drugs in these things. And so we have been able to do is to find ways to do some prototyping where we actually build a tiny house and drive it around to inform the conversation and then have people come into the tiny house and then literally kick the walls or get a sense as to.


Mary Rowe [01:15:29] And in that case you’re working with that, you’re working with Andrea’s strategy. You’re taking the third member of the team, the bucket that isn’t there yet, and you’re finding a strategy to get them on side.


Nigel Jacob [01:15:38] Right, right. And so the idea here is to provide, one of one of the challenges in in modern sort of liberal democracies, I think maybe we over rely on rationality and innumeracy. That people understand that all things being equal, this is somehow more efficient in more efficient use of space and time than this other thing, and I think we often forget to to use people’s intuitive sense as to how things work or their sense of aesthetics. And so, you know, when we were able to do this project, we were driving around. I think, you know, what we were showing people with this little house that we had, we had built. It was no different than the numbers that we had had up on, or the housing department it had up on their charts and so on. But that was right. It was was done under the assumption that by showing people lists of numbers that somehow they could intuit what that would mean. And so when we were able to show people that could get a sense, oh, I now I see why this is important. And they were then able we could have a very specific discussion about how people wanted to vote around changes to the zoning code. One of the things to this issue that people often they see government is very monolithic. I think there is one of the things we have a small group called Housing Innovation Lab. And one of the things that they’re exploring is to- I think we’re also very aware that whenever we go to a meeting, because we’re just government, people ask us whatever. We’re there to talk about housing, but they ask us about transportation and so on. And I think that we have to increasingly with our colleagues, the small thing, but we have to not be afraid of that and not not say that’s not relevant. It is relevant because they’re talking about the livability of their neighborhood. And so in this way, the livability and legibility, the legibility of government, is vital.


Mary Rowe [01:17:31] This is your radically accessible idea, that you be radically accessible.


Nigel Jacob [01:17:35] Exactly. And so what we’re trying to do is we’re providing some grant level funding as bridging capital for people in the moment now, people that are housed in housing crisis. And so there’s a set of programs offered by the state that have offer programs offered by by the city, different funding models. But we’re increasingly trying to move to a place where we say we’re not going to fuss about, we’re not going to say that’s the state you need to call it state person or that’s the city who does that. But we’re just going to try to own it all and say, if you start with us, we’re going to answer that question and and we will actually pull in if we need to pull in a representative from the state housing division we’ll try to do that. So we’re not passing people off as a small thing. But I think making people, making government, in the big G sense, more legible and accessible to people that need to get things done, I think is one of the things we’re trying to do.


Mary Rowe [01:18:29] Mayor, you want to jump in on that?


Naheed Nenshi [01:18:31] You know, I love the word legibility, it’s one that I use sometimes to talk about what we’re doing and else use it a lot to talk about public art. By the way, I think public art should be legible as art. Doesn’t have to be something I love that people should see. But it’s art. But I do want to go back to the very specific question of housing, because I think that is the best and the worst example, because housing is an area where all three orders of government have a finger and nobody really knows whose responsibility it is. But we’re in the midst of something very interesting right now in experiments. I’m going to use that word more at the moment. Because of what has happened with COVID in the unique economic circumstances here in Calgary, which are also similar in Edmonton, but it’s a situation where we have particularly high vacancy rates, where our rents are not that bad, and where a number of hotels, and this is true everywhere, are in a lot of distress. So I am pitching hard right now to the federal and provincial governments, a plan that says, look, with the application of a little bit of capital at a moment where interest rates are zero and you guys are spending money on everything, and a little bit of operating for wraparound services, we actually could end chronic homelessness in Calgary in 2021. And it’s interesting because Calgary is very excited about it, but we don’t have the money. The province in social services is excited-ish about it. They think they can come up with the operating money. The federal government is very excited about it, but of course, they can only do national programs. And then a national program will get one tenth of what we need. And the province is not convinced the province should be building housing at all. So I’ve got the opportunity for five hundred million bucks to end homelessness in the third largest city in the country, to end it. And I’m not sure that we’re going to be able to get the approval that we need, so I’ll just give you the numbers. Three hundred million from the feds, two hundred and forty million from the province, twelve point seven million in operating annually. These are not insurmountable numbers. And in fact, the federal government recently gave three hundred million dollars for housing in Peel region outside of Toronto, which is the same size as Calgary. I was watching a documentary about the new housing complex on the site of the old Honest Ed store in Toronto. And in the middle of that documentary I heard a, I was kind of drifting off because although an interesting story I was tired, and suddenly I heard a familiar voice and it was Minister Ahmed Hussein announcing two hundred million dollars of federal funding for housing for that one complex. And by the way, when I did the math, it’s a million bucks a door. You can give two hundred million dollars to the corner Bay and Bloor, give three hundred million dollars to Calgary and we’ll end homelessness. And so ultimately, this is a matter of will. And if we have the opportunity to do it, let’s do it. Oh, sorry, someone’s asking me what the government is afraid of in terms of ending homelessness. I’ll tell you, the federal government is afraid of spending money in Calgary where they won’t get any seats. And the provincial government at this moment has a philosophy that maybe homeless people have done something that makes them need to be homeless, and we probably just need to minister to them as homeless people rather than help them get homes.


Andrea Reimer [01:22:13] Constitutional reform, and I know it’s not sexy and it’s never going to be a website or a headline or hopefully not a Twitter hashtag, because it would take up half your tweet, but it has to be done. When 92 percent of the money, the tax dollars leaving Calgary are going to governments who do not care, have no political incentive to solve a problem for hundreds of thousands of people that are either homeless, at risk of homeless or imminently at risk of being homeless, this is a this is a structural problem that needs a structural solution. That’s not to say we don’t experiment, pilot, triage, whatever we need to do to try and shore up as many people’s lives as we can in the interim. But the long term, well even the medium term fixes here require that level of reform. In Vancouver, I love this word, legibility is such a perfect word because that is when you look at people’s faces when they’re like, “but why can’t you do a carbon tax or do this?” and you’re like, I know this sounds illegible to you. You have no idea, like how much I want to be able to do that, but cannot do that. We took a bit of an opposite approach to Vancouver to the sort of standard. I used to think it was a Canadian game. When I was doing international work on environment, I learned that it’s actually an international game where it’s like, well, that level of government, that level that, you know, we’d love to but et cetera. We decided in Vancouver that we would take one hundred and ten percent of the responsibility. We would push it. We had Stephen Harper as a prime minister. We knew he wasn’t coming over the hills with the cheque to help us solve homelessness or fight climate change. We had a provincial government that was tepid at best on the issues that we were fighting for. So we tried every possible thing we could be brought in. We took SROs. We made it from five thousand dollars per room to one hundred and eighty thousand dollars per room If you wanted to get rid of an SRO room. We built thousands of new social and rental housing. So we had the first rental housing program in the country at the city level without the jurisdictional authority to do it. We built the first co-op in over a decade. We put hundreds of millions of dollars into housing at the city level. We were the first city to regulate AirBnB. We had a renters advisory committee. We did we did literally everything that we could do within our power. And the one big takeaway I have from all of it is that you cannot fix capitalism with more capitalism. Like that was the only tool we had available to us was the market and you can’t do it. You cannot solve the problem of some people building housing as investment and retirement funds and other people needing housing as a fundamental human right. So you need government to be an arbiter in that. And if the government, as Mayor Nenshi said, has zero incentive to be the arbiter in your city, your residents shouldn’t have to die because of that. They shouldn’t have to suffer. They shouldn’t have to wonder. A guy in New Zealand explained it to me as if you think about capitalism, the concept of winners and losers. Think of the monopoly board. Right? If you if you have capital, this is true. You are a winner or loser on that board. If you don’t have capital, you’re not even on the bloody board. You’re just hoping to God that some government somewhere will let you cling onto the edge of that board long enough that maybe you’ll get the capital to actually be on the board. And that is the challenge facing cities in Canada right now. We need to provide land and the security of tenure and safe, affordable housing for our residents and cities like Vancouver, where it’s fifty eight percent that are renting. That’s the lot of residents that need that power. And there’s no political incentive. So we have to put our money and respect for cities on the table, whether that’s through provincial charter reform or constitutional reform and probably both. It needs to be a discussion that we have if we’re going to swing out of the pandemic with anything close to the level of security and prosperity that existed before, let alone what we need for all our residents to prosper.


Mary Rowe [01:26:01] Good answer. I mean, I’m going to finish with you Mayor Nenshi. And so because we’re around in the corner here to let people go and have their lunch or their tea or whatever, they’re waiting to have. Nigel, a couple of words from you, please.


Nigel Jacob [01:26:16] I mean, there’s a lot here, I think that. As I said before, I think there’s this huge moment that we’re in the middle of where we do need to bring our whole selves to the question of what does local government do and what what can we do? There’s a whole set of issues around- I love that Andrea said you can’t fix capitalism with more capitalism. I think there’s there’s a whole set of challenging our assumptions that we have to do in local government, something that the Mayor said when he was talking with a room full of venture capitalists. I think that we have to stop simply borrowing language and models from other fields and using it. And now even the word innovation is problematic. Innovation has a connotation of disruption. That’s how it’s always used in the private sector. But is that what we do in local government? Am I here to disrupt the school system? So I think there is there’s I think we have there’s a need of wisdom in how we’re we’re we’re thinking about changing things and what I think. But we do have to do it with intent, that we’re trying to change what it does, what local government does and how it does it and who benefits. And so I’m excited to continue this work. I’ve been doing it for a while, but I know that our contact info will be up there towards the end. Anybody anybody looking to talk to somebody who is interested in doing this? Call me up.


Mary Rowe [01:27:47] Last brief word  to you, Mayor Nenshi.


Naheed Nenshi [01:27:50] Well, I just want to say thank you again to everyone for the work that you’re doing, for investing the time in this conversation, but I might give you some advice, Mary, and the whole team for this series of next Fridays, which is this is a great conversation. I love having this conversation. But we have to get beyond conversation, and I think that it is going to be very important for us to really dig in deep on some of the critical issues that are facing us in the COVID recovery. So while we need to use this crisis as an opportunity to have the big conversations around taxation reform and constitution and all of those other things, we also need to do is ensure that we are setting ourselves up in a way that is resilient to get us through the next pandemic or the next crisis, but also in a way that learns, learns us the lessons that we have learned from what is happening here. So issues like police reform, which I’m so sorry, we only just scratched on today, with the whole concept of mental health, first response, how we’re keeping people in our community safe. It’s important that we’re really smart as a tack on this issue, the issue of equity and access to services, the issue of understanding transit differently than just getting downtown workers downtown where the parking is expensive and ensuring that we understand how we are supplying those transit services in a way that, again, is equitable. I think that’s a really important word right now for us to think about. So I would really encourage you as you’re moving forward on this series to get to those brass tax quickly, to learn from one another and get smart, because those of us in the policymaking roles need that wisdom because we are going through uncharted waters now where we have the we don’t have the ability to be innovative. We have the absolute requirement to be innovative. We cannot come back after these crises exactly as we were before. That would be a terrible mistake. So with that, thank you all so much for participating. I know this is just the kickoff to a lot of work, but I look forward to seeing the results of it. And I want to thank you all for doing that work. And if you need to reach me: themayor@calgary.ca. Don’t forget the “the”.


Mary Rowe [01:30:12] Thanks Mayor Nenshi. So this is a great kickoff to the Municipal Leadership Forum and to all the people that have been participating from municipal governments. We you can hear that all the rest of us who are not working for municipal government are supportive of you and committed to you being the best that you can be and understanding as you innovate or transform or whatever the right word is. And Nigel that’s not necessarily disruptive. But whatever it is that you need to be is what we’re all committed to. And it’s it’s a moment where we where I think all of us are really fully aware, not just people on CityTalks, but people in and around the country are aware that local governments really matter. So, Andrea, thanks. Nice to see you. Thank you for having them. For taking the time to do this. Nigel, always great to see you. Mayor Nenshi, always great to see you. I’m going to see lots of you and who are in municipal public service back on Friday, the next three Fridays. And don’t think the rest of you are going to, we haven’t forgotten about you. So those of you that are not in municipal government, just know that CityTalk returns next week on Tuesday. Watch your email for a notice about it. We’re going to talk about why, what’s the future of our shared civic places as we cope and emerge from COVID. And that’s with fabulous people: Graham Singh from the Trinity Centers Foundation in Montreal. Carol Coletta from Memphis who Nigel knows the Memphis River Parks Initiative. Natalie Voland from Quebec, La Belle Province, a developer who is doing all sorts of interesting things around mixed-use and development. And Tim Jones, the remarkable CEO from Artscape, who’s been working with artists in spacemaking, placemaking for a number of years here in Toronto across the country. Thanks for joining us on CityTalk. We’ll post the video live and the chat will go live and we really appreciate you joining us. Don’t forget to continue #citytalk. The conversation never ends here. It just starts. Thanks again Mayor Nenshi for taking so much time. Bye everybody.


Naheed Nenshi [01:31:48] Thank you all.


Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

Note to reader: Chat comments have been edited for ease of readability. The text has not been edited for spelling or grammar. For questions or concerns, please contact events@canurb.org with “Chat Comments” in the subject lin

From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://canurb.org/citytalk

12:02:32             From Canadian Urban Institute : Welcome! Folks, please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.

12:03:37             From Karen Levitt  to  All panelists : Are the participants invisible?

12:03:44             From Karen Levitt  to  All panelists : Hi Andrea!!

12:03:57             From Andrea Reimer  to  Karen Levitt and all panelists : Hey! How are you??

12:04:12             From Canadian Urban Institute  to  Karen Levitt and all panelists : Karen, Can you not see our panelists?

12:04:17             From Karen Levitt  to  All panelists : Great, thanks! So nice to see you.

12:04:22             From Karen Levitt  to  All panelists : Yes can see four of you.

12:04:28             From Canadian Urban Institute  to  Karen Levitt and all panelists : Mayor Naheed Nenshi




Nigel Jacob




Andrea Reimer



12:04:34             From Andrea Reimer  to  Karen Levitt and all panelists : And congrats on the new position

12:04:50             From Canadian Urban Institute : Mayor Naheed Nenshi




Nigel Jacob




Andrea Reimer




12:05:03             From Karen Levitt  to  All panelists : thanks, having a blast.

12:05:29             From Canadian Urban Institute : You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our sessions at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk

12:06:16             From Branislav Henselmann : Hello from Vancouver!

12:06:25             From Alison Carlyle : Hello from Halifax, NS!

12:06:27             From Alain Gonthier  to  All panelists : Hello everyone from Ottawa. Looking forward to an engaging forum.

12:06:28             From Malithi Fernando : Hello from Paris! (ex-Calgary!)

12:06:31             From Kim Goodall : good morning from Kamloops, BC!

12:06:32             From Kirsten Frankish  to  All panelists : Hello from Oshawa, Ontario!

12:06:32             From Emeka Ekwosimba Ekwosimba : Hello from Edmonton

12:06:39             From Beverley Bradnam  to  All panelists : Hello from Fort Erie!

12:06:40             From Martin Boulianne : Montréal here!

12:06:40             From Andrea Reimer  to  Branislav Henselmann and all panelists : Hey Branislav! How are you?

12:06:41             From David Crenna : Watching from Gatineau, Quebec…

12:06:45             From Jocelyne Turner  to  All panelists : Good afternoon from Ottawa 🙂

12:06:45             From Gillian Mason : Hi from Scarborough — eastern part of the City of Toronto — pop’n 630,000

12:06:46             From Pam Hine : Good morning from Whitehorse

12:06:47             From Sarah Smith : Hello from Calgary!

12:06:52             From Irena Nikolova  to  All panelists : Hello from Toronto!

12:06:55             From Mark Garner : Hello from Toronto

12:06:55             From Alan Kasperski : Greetings from Stratford, ON

12:06:56             From Alex Popovic  to  All panelists : Good morning from Vancouver!

12:07:02             From Cheryl Blackman  to  All panelists : Good afternoon from Whitby, On. 60 km east of Toronto

12:07:03             From Kate Wilcott : Listening in from Saint John New Brunswick!

12:07:03             From Andrea Davidson  to  All panelists : Andrea Davidson (she/her/hers), I am an uninvited, white colonial settler who acknowledges and respects the traditional, ancestral, and occupied territories of the Coast Salish Peoples, including those of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), shíshálh (Sechelt), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, on which I live, learn and work.

12:07:05             From Anna Babicz  to  All panelists : good morning from Victoria

12:07:07             From Kirsten Frankish : Hello again from Oshawa, Ontario (didn’t change my settings earlier.)!

12:07:07             From Karolina Gajewska  to  All panelists : Hi from Calgary, AB!

12:07:09             From James LaPierre : Greeting from Toronto

12:07:11             From Rhiannon Stromberg : Good Morning! Hello from Edmonton with the Municipal Leadership Forum. Excited to be here.

12:07:12             From Marie-Pierre Rouette : Bonjour tout le monde!

12:07:20             From Sandro Pampallona : Hello from Italy!

12:07:21             From P Reddy : Hello, from Durban, South Africa

12:07:22             From Alex Popovic : Good morning from Vancouver!

12:07:24             From Karen Sveinunggaard  to  All panelists : Greetings from Calgary!

12:07:24             From Max Brookman  to  All panelists : Hello from London

12:07:30             From Nada Peters : hello from Prince George

12:07:33             From Branislav Henselmann : Hi Andrea!!! So great to see you on here.

12:07:34             From Alain Larrivee  to  All panelists : Hello from Montréal

12:07:34             From Leandro Santos : Hello from Mississauga, Ontario!

12:07:36             From Lisa Sierra  to  All panelists : Lisa Sierra MLF Cohort proudly representing Calgary. www.linkedin.com/in/lisajsierra

12:07:40             From Stuart Filson  to  All panelists : Good morning from London, Ontario!

12:07:49             From Alexandra Flynn : Good morning from Vancouver, the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skxwú7mesh (Squamish) and səlil̓wətaʔɬ (Tsleil Waututh) Coast Salish peoples

12:07:52             From Bridget MacIntosh : Hello from Toronto everyone!

12:08:03             From Pascale Ladouceur  to  All panelists : Bonjour and good morning from Edmonton

12:08:04             From John Fleming  to  All panelists : Good morning from London……Ontario

12:08:12             From Brian Pincott : Hi From the Traditional Territory if the Treaty 1 Nations & the Homeland of the Métis

12:08:16             From Sandra Nikolic  to  All panelists : Hello from Vancouver. Nice to see your face again, Andrea. 🙂

12:08:18             From Jayne Engle : Bonjour / hello de Montreal!

12:08:19             From Karen Redman  to  All panelists : Hello from Region of Waterloo

12:08:30             From Tina Conlon  to  All panelists : hello from Toronto

12:08:43             From Don Herweyer  to  All panelists : Good afternoon from the City of Ottawa!

12:08:50             From Canadian Urban Institute : Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.

12:09:26             From Natalia Diaz-Insense  to  All panelists : Hi from Halifax!

12:09:37             From Vivian Forssman : Hello from Vancouver

12:10:08             From michael mcclelland : Good afternoon from Toronto!

12:10:29             From Canadian Urban Institute : CUI extends a big thank you to our partners for today’s session: Apolitical, Institute of Public Administration of Canada, Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership at the Ivey Business School, and the Canadian Municipal Barometer.




Canadian Municipal Barometer


12:10:50             From Don Herweyer : Good afternoon from the City of Ottawa!


12:11:00             From Gloria Venczel : Hello from North Vancouver! So very grateful to CUI to have created such a collaborative forum and joint covid recovery resources for cities + communities! Big part of Canadian democratic resiliency….

12:11:02             From Mary W Rowe  to  Gillian Mason and all panelists : 🙂

12:12:23             From Clara Freire : Hello from Ottawa with thanks to the Algonquin Anishinaabe people for their hospitality.

12:12:28             From Norm Connolly : Good morning from City of Richmond in Greater Vancouver. Thanks for organizing this! 🙂

12:13:39             From Colleen Bawn  to  All panelists : Hello from Summerside PEI

12:13:45             From Mary W Rowe  to  Gloria Venczel and all panelists : thanks Gloria

12:15:20             From Godwin Chan : Mental Health crisis, right on, Mayor!

12:15:24             From Valerie Miller  to  All panelists : Howdy from Dallas, Texas


12:18:18             From Ralph Cipolla : hello from Orillia Ontario the sunshine city thank you for doing this

12:18:25             From Leya Behra : Good morning from the City of New Westminster on the unceded territories of the Qayqayt, Katzie, Tsawwassen, Tsleil-Waututh, Stó:lō, Kwantlen, Musqueam, Squamish.

12:18:41             From Natalia Diaz-Insense : Hi from Halifax!


12:19:41             From Gillian Mason : “People we never think about building a city for….” How simple, how profound.

12:19:51             From Valerie Miller  to  All panelists : I think it is important to make relationships with your public, through organizations, churches, activists to see what making life better means to them. It also helps create conversations across the community, to let them help shape and rank needs together. I feel we are facilitators to help put into action what the community, by showing how to verbalize their needs and we help maneuver within the local government

12:19:57             From Mary W Rowe : hey folks – easier for me to read your questions if they’re not ALL CAPS thanls

12:20:41             From Canadian Urban Institute : We love your comments and questions in the chat! Share them with everyone by changing your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees”. Thanks!

12:20:54             From Sarah Ellis : Hi from Vancouver! As City staff working in Vancouver, we’re constantly grappling with issues like housing and climate change whose solutions push the boundaries of traditional municipal authority (and budgets). It’s feeling like we need to start thinking bigger in terms of the role of big cities. Do any of our panelists have any concrete ideas/asks on this?

12:21:01             From Mary W Rowe : also can you all adjust your settings to panelists and attendees? best that everyone see what you’re offering thanks

12:21:33             From Brian Pincott : Damn Right, Naheed!!!

12:21:37             From Canadian Urban Institute  to  Valerie Miller and all panelists : Hi, Valerie! Your comment only went to panelists – do you want to change your chat settings to include attendees and repost? Thanks!

12:21:42             From David Katz : https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidkatzsustainable1

12:21:51             From Alain Gonthier : I love the frankness of Mayor Nenshi!

12:22:04             From Karen Redman : There is a debate at Waterloo Region whether public transit needs to be an essential service or an enterprise that helps pay for costs? The exact people Mayo Nenshi is referring (essential workers like PSWs, grocery clerks, etc) to are the ones who depend on public transit. Waterloo Region has lost $17 M through running transit for free for several weeks due to Covid 19 and now have a greatly reduced ridership.

12:22:04             From David Katz : Helping cities to be more sustainable.

12:22:32             From Alan Kasperski : @ Sarah Ellis … www.masseycitiessummit.ca

12:22:45             From Cheryl Blackman  to  All panelists : Mayor Nenshi thank you for speaking frankly…breath of fresh air!

12:22:55             From Keren Tang : So much respect (from Edmonton) to this Calgary mayor

12:23:00             From Shari Austin : Hello from Toronto. Mayor Nenshi is a national treasure. So wonderful to hear from him.

12:23:02             From Joe Mihevc  to  All panelists : I appreciate your comments Mayor Nemshi, especially your willingness to speak to the human issues facing your city in a self-critical way

12:23:03             From Andrea Davidson  to  All panelists : Does the City of Calgary plan to accelerate innovation – remove barriers that slow experimentation, and instead embrace rapid cycles of experimentation (prototype, pilot and quickly implement?

12:23:24             From Michael Diplock  to  All panelists : https://twitter.com/DiplockMichael

12:23:54             From Canadian Urban Institute : Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.

12:23:55             From Karolina Gajewska : IT’S KILLING SMALL BUSINESS.

12:24:31             From David Walsh  to  All panelists : How do we work together to stop the Federal government’s $19 billion new fighter jets so this money can be redirected to the needs Mayor Nenshi outlines.

12:24:39             From Gloria Venczel : Bravo Mayor Nenshi on all points!! Gender equity may need more attention as well.

12:25:34             From Brian Pincott : Such a great project.

12:25:59             From Kimberley Nelson : And launched so many things because of the variety of voices given a platform

12:26:02             From Mary W Rowe  to  Brian Pincott and all panelists : Brian is there a web link that archived that?

12:26:03             From Ralph Cipolla : from Ralph Cipolla orillia has recommended that for 2021 0 tax increase

12:26:07             From Gillian Mason : … and where I have a sense of belonging…

12:26:29             From Brian Pincott : Here’s the current link at the City….https://www.calgary.ca/pda/pd/office-of-sustainability/imaginecalgary.html

12:26:41             From Mary W Rowe  to  Brian Pincott and all panelists : thx

12:26:51             From Brian Pincott : (Ha… I left you guys behind… I don’t need the reminder of why!)

12:27:39             From Gillian Mason : Agreed: how we think, yes … and how we act while we are learning. We cannot wait until we’ve figured it all out, as it were.

12:27:42             From Andrea Reimer  to  Brian Pincott and all panelists : hahahaha

12:30:01             From Kjeld-Mizpah Conyers-Steede : I would be interested in hearing more of your vision for tax reform.

12:31:24             From Gillian Mason : Thank you Mayor.

12:31:37             From Thiago Braga : Thank you, very inspiring!

12:31:38             From Cheryl Blackman  to  All panelists : I would be interested in the Mayor has any thoughts about Transformative economic development?

12:31:45             From Gloria Venczel : So very proud to be a Canadian with such a civic minded and dedicated municipal leader, Mayor Nenshi!

12:31:49             From Sandro Pampallona : Thank you very much Mr. Nenshi

12:31:49             From Lorne Cappe : Inspirational! Thanks so much Mayor

12:31:50             From Cibele Donato : One of Canada’s biggest assets is its diverse set of people, unfortunetely new canadians are largely under represented in urban planning and landscape architecture, which means we are missing out from different perspectives of what makes cities great places to grow and live! WE NEED TO START WALKING THE WALK!

12:31:58             From Cheryl Blackman  to  All panelists : Thank you Mr. Mayor!

12:32:27             From Julie MacIsaac  to  All panelists : You are truly inspiring Mr. Mayor.  Thank you – from the bottom of my heart.  I needed to hear that today.

12:32:38             From JIM SIMOS  to  All panelists : Can you please give some details on tax reform? consumption taxation? user fees?

12:32:40             From Ralph Cipolla : thank you mayor from orillia

12:33:01             From Heather Kathol : Thank you for your inspirational leadership Mayor Nenshi

12:33:06             From Canadian Urban Institute : CUI extends a big thank you to our partners for today’s session: Apolitical, Institute of Public Administration of Canada, Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership at the Ivey Business School, and the Canadian Municipal Barometer.




Canadian Municipal Barometer


12:33:41             From David Katz : How does your vision compare to the TO Transform that is addressing the climate change commitments

12:33:49             From Canadian Urban Institute : Mayor Naheed Nenshi




Nigel Jacob




Andrea Reimer




12:34:07             From Godwin Chan : A caring Municipal Leader! Wholeheartedly support his views on the importance of the order of government that deliver public services with only 8-10% overall taxes in Canada. From the vibrant City of Richmond Hill, ON!

12:35:47             From KRISTYNA NG : Mayor Nenshi, thank you for inspiring us at The City of Calgary to do our best to make life better everyday. Your commitment to the “promise” is very meaningful.

12:36:01             From Allison Ashcroft  to  All panelists : love andrea reimer, she always articulates exactly how i’m feeling. how can the results in the US even be close indeed.

12:37:14             From Pamela Haskell : QE JH/SH represent!

12:40:23             From Abby S : If voting comes from outside cities, how to we make it in the Provinces’ interest to cede power?

12:40:50             From Stephen Crozier : Vancouver has a charter that would have allowed it to respond to the housing crisis, doesn’t it?

12:40:54             From Asif Kurji : Question – Innovation is such a vague term – What are some tactical strategies to encourage colleagues to think differently and embrace and act on change? How can we encourage this when local governments have traditionally been resistant to change?

12:41:38             From Andrea Reimer : Vancouver’s Charter did not give it the ability to respond to the housing crisis. It does not allow for any rules or ability to enforce around rentals for example

12:41:40             From Sandro Pampallona : @Asif Kurji +1

12:42:27             From Alan Kasperski : A city charter that can be overruled or ignored by a province is no charter at all … and makes local autonomy a whom of a province.

12:42:50             From Lisa Sierra  to  All panelists : @Asif This work has some great research and practical steps https://failforward.centreforpublicimpact.org/p/2

12:42:50             From Alan Kasperski : whim, Siri … whim

12:43:16             From Andrea Reimer : @Asif Kurji and @Sandro – agree on innovation in cities but Vancouver staff has shown it’s possible to take risks and innovate when there is a Mayor and Council prepared to go there consistently with them

12:43:43             From Canadian Urban Institute  to  Lisa Sierra and all panelists : Can you change your chat settings and re-post? Your comment only went to panelists. Thanks!

12:44:58             From Andrea Reimer : Its also worth considering that the primary function of city governments is to provide stable, predictable, replicable services so the vast majority of staff are people who are good at stable, predictable and replicable. That’s OK (important actually) but you need to find ways for the two approaches to live together in one organizations

12:45:11             From Keren Tang : Yes to the much needed conversation everywhere about redesigning community safety and policing – will be keen to hear how and when Boston approaches it (Hi Nigel!)

12:45:11             From Kjeld-Mizpah Conyers-Steede : The city of Halifax has asked for a the charter change to take over housing but so far its been a no go

12:45:44             From Lisa Sierra : @Asif This work has some great research and practical steps https://failforward.centreforpublicimpact.org/p


12:46:46             From Brian Moss : Can you check the URL on fail forward ..

12:46:53             From Brian Pincott : Hi to all my friends on this who work for the City of Calgary. Nice to see your names pop up!

12:47:06             From Anna Babicz  to  All panelists : one reason why is probably focus on expectations vs opportunities of local government

12:47:39             From Asif Kurji : Hi @Brian Pincott!

12:47:48             From Brian Pincott : Georgist Taxation!!!

12:47:49             From Sandro Pampallona : @Andrea Reimer – thanks ! would be useful nonetheless to clarify how to develop a sense of change and how to curb resistance (@Asif Kurji talks from an administration perspective and I speak from a practitioner/citizen perspective)

12:47:57             From Canadian Urban Institute : URL Correction: https://failforward.centreforpublicimpact.org/p/1

12:48:30             From Guido Rodriguez  to  All panelists : Hi Brian!

12:49:21             From Canadian Urban Institute : We love your comments and questions in the chat! Share them with everyone by changing your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees”. Thanks!

12:49:57             From Brian Pincott : Municipalities in Canada only receive 8 cents of every tax dollar collected.

12:50:15             From Andrea Reimer : @Sandro – happy to connect more. it’s what I teach about at UBC! you will never curb resistance but you can have it co-exist with relentless innovation. they are good bedfellows if you design for it

12:50:15             From Abby S : @MayorNenshi this is very sad to hear….(re Charter)

12:50:16             From David Crenna : How do we address the large disparities in wealth among municipalities, which in the US are arguably among the reasons for the inequalities there?

12:50:23             From Lisa Sierra : Thanks for fixing the url – missed grabbing the last characters. We have a Municipal Innovators Community that has resources and support – open to all municipalities in Canada

12:50:53             From Mary W Rowe  to  David Crenna and all panelists : within or between?

12:50:56             From Kimberley Nelson : Sounds to me like a lot of this comes down to provincial election reform – both Naheed’s concerns with taxation and Andrea’s comments about provincial MLAs not understanding the urban issues but trying to create solutions for cities out of context when 82% are in urban settings

12:51:11             From Godwin Chan : U of T’s Munk Centre has published studies on municipal taxes reforms- broaden the sources of revenue is key. The ratio of commercial vs. residential share of property taxes is another issue.

12:51:52             From Alain Gonthier : Brian, those 8 cents provide Canadians with the most value for money. Imagine if cities had access to a more equitable share!

12:51:59             From Sandro Pampallona : @Andrea – with pleasure, really ! Very relevant for some work we are doing with several communities in Kerala, India – how to reach you ?

12:52:39             From Stephen Crozier : Isn’t the inaccurate term “defund the police” what makes it such a divisive issue? Language I important and this term doesn’t accurately reflect what is needed to address social problems.

12:52:43             From Andrea Reimer : @Sandro – right! andrea.reimer@citizenandrea.ca

12:52:48             From Lisa Sierra : And talk about what you learned from those experiments

12:53:20             From Michael Diplock  to  All panelists : what are some pilot projects that you have found successful / would like to try?

12:53:50             From Sandro Pampallona : @Andrea – Thanks, very grateful !

12:53:57             From Martin Banach : Just want to say this was a really informative discussion so far. I have to jump off early but enjoyed Mayor Nenshi’s opening. Very romantic view of municipal public service. I like the pragmatic approach- “it’s all about the money”. Thanks all 🙂

12:55:00             From Brian Pincott : Naheed is speaking about a failure of governance at the political level.

12:55:05             From Abby S : How do we deal with people that don’t trust the experts? Whatever “experts” mean….

12:55:08             From Gloria Venczel : Cities are where democratic theory meets practice. Cities are the economic engines of Canada. Cities are the engines of innovation. Cities need a New Green Deal that includes tax reform, climate friendly policy authority and covid recovery equity tools for economic resiliency, social resiliency through walkable urban design + public spaces for social connectedness.

12:55:34             From Allison Ashcroft  to  All panelists : @Reimer, it shouldn’t be necessary but can you take a big one for the team and move to Ottawa and fix this already

12:56:00             From Andrea Reimer : Nigel wrote the book on try, learn, build, test and repeat for cities!

12:56:12             From Brian Pincott : Politics can and does get in the way of good governance. And it does it in the guise of governance.

12:56:44             From Kimberley Nelson : Too often, the “experts” appear to be framing their reports not to the actual data, but to the palatability of council – what will be excepted vs what is right

12:56:57             From Brian Moss : I wonder what role energy, timber, agriculture, fish play in exports .. cities are not everything ..

12:57:52             From Andrea Reimer : @BrianMoss – that’s true. I wonder how much the webinars about those things talk about cities and the role they play is ensuring the success of resource-based economies?

12:57:59             From Tobin Postma  to  All panelists : innovation in muni govt is about designing programs and processes for the people who actually need/use them rather than designing them to make the lives of those working in government easier

12:58:07             From David Katz : In light of the move to twitter to go directly to the occupant as shown in US election, how do cities use this approach?

12:58:22             From Canadian Urban Institute  to  Tobin Postma and all panelists : Can you change your chat settings and re-post? Your comment only went to panelists. Thanks!

12:58:35             From Andrea Reimer : Check out Nigel’s work >> https://www.boston.gov/departments/new-urban-mechanics Got a good chance to get to know it in Boston and it is an amazing example

12:58:36             From Tobin Postma : innovation in muni govt is about designing programs and processes for the people who actually need/use them rather than designing them to make the lives of those working in government easier


12:58:38             From Alan Kasperski : @Naheed … there have been 11 constitutional amendments since 1982. Albeit of the single province variety.

12:58:54             From Asif Kurji : @Nigel – interesting comment on differentiating between pilot and experiment

12:59:04             From Allison Ashcroft  to  All panelists : Agree with Nigel, pilots that are designed for the limitations of our capacity or resources wont be transformative. we need to design for the scale of the impact we require, if you can design for scale and manage to do a pilot, fine, but I think we should be willing to roll an outcomes-based program at a scale and ongoing timeline that can drive the long term impacts we are pursuing and just continuously evolve the program, not start and stop with small funds and no chance to deliver real impact.

12:59:20             From Allison Ashcroft : Agree with Nigel, pilots that are designed for the limitations of our capacity or resources wont be transformative. we need to design for the scale of the impact we require, if you can design for scale and manage to do a pilot, fine, but I think we should be willing to roll an outcomes-based program at a scale and ongoing timeline that can drive the long term impacts we are pursuing and just continuously evolve the program, not start and stop with small funds and no chance to deliver real impact.


13:00:18             From Keren Tang : Pilot vs. prototyping. Pilot just gets people’s back up. Prototyping really is about culture change.

13:00:40             From Lisa Sierra : Yes! @Andrea great point

13:01:27             From Sandro Pampallona : Yes ! Great point @Andrea : there is actually no failure when people and administrations make mistakes “together” !

13:03:45             From Allison Ashcroft : exactly a long game, stop with the small time-limited project grants that build capacity with consultants rather than within local govt with permanent fulltime positions that enable relationship-building, bring and deliver innovation, etc.

13:03:52             From Andrea Reimer : The garbage won

13:04:05             From Lisa Sierra : Coaching and teaching people to prototype and experiment is important as it opens up their thinking and ability to try things in an appropriate scale to @Nigel’s point

13:04:12             From Andrea Reimer : The garbage won’t get picked up on Monday is actually one of the worst disasters to befall a municipal government

13:05:07             From Allison Ashcroft : yes – time/capacity/resources for learning, sharing learning, and utilization-focused developmental evaluation

13:06:32             From Alan Kasperski : 🙂

13:07:12             From Sidney Ribaux  to  All panelists : Wether we talk about pilots or experiments, isn’t there a danger that we spend all our time on these and too little time on system changers like revenu diversification for example.

13:07:41             From Olga Messinis : Recognizing the need to be nimble around trying new things (from pilots to experimentations) , we have risked great ideas and trial becoming political fodder. Nigel, you mentioned being radically available and dissolving the walls of city council. How do you manage that within governance structures? Advice?

13:07:44             From Canadian Urban Institute  to  Sidney Ribaux and all panelists : Can you change your chat settings and re-post? Your comment only went to panelists. Thanks!

13:08:20             From Allison Ashcroft : with respect, we can

13:09:27             From Allison Ashcroft : with respect, we can’t treat every decision like it is as risky as faulty steel of a bridge. we need to manage risk not avoid it completely.

13:09:34             From Gloria Venczel : In terms of community buy-in for municipal experiments/pilots, if at all possible, create a process where the community perceives that they are the initiators/authors of innovation. 🙂

13:09:46             From Lisa Sierra : How do we talk about our failures as learning? Example we use is that WD40 is named because the first 39 were failures but the learning was there

13:10:06             From Brian Pincott : It is one of the true joys of municipal.. that there isn’t (for most of us) a party system!

13:10:14             From Andrea Reimer : ^^ great example @LisaSierra

13:10:15             From Irena Nikolova : As a public servants in the Public Service of Canada I understand aversion to risk. But we also benefit the most from pilot projects, which have been initiated at the grassroots level.Innovation has always been driven by new, sometimes very unconventional and crazy ideas. This is how science and technology have advanced throughout history.

13:11:13             From Branislav Henselmann : To Andrea’s Point around the “three big buckets” and the notion of transformation as we reexamine the current and future role of the cities, it seems to me that it’s incredibly important to assess – and then reestablish – the new notions of democratic, civic duty for all those living in our cities. All this to say, true transformation of any kind dictates that work is required by all involved.

13:11:20             From David Katz : Why not share with FCM?

13:12:01             From Brian Pincott : The Council Innovation Fund supported a project in my ward that essentially was a participatory budgeting process. Very successful

13:12:43             From Tobin Postma : there is a good analogy here between how local governments use incremental budgeting vs zero-based budgeting when it comes to prototyping…we look at how we can create and implement new policies/processes/programs whereas we should really be looking at our current policies/processes/programs

13:12:50             From Natalia Diaz-Insense : I’d very much agree with Mayor Nenshi. Risk aversion is there, but fear of accountability should not prevent folks to try things. The main problem in my view is what Nigel was saying about the fact that a lot of pilots (or experiments, it doesn’t really matter) don’t get much follow-up. Proper follow-up would provide the transformative changes that Andrea is talking about. Nova Scotia is often called the land of pilots…

13:14:11             From Olga Messinis : Great correlation Tobin.

13:15:25             From Brian Pincott : ORDER!!!!!

13:16:46             From Lisa Sierra : I can’t post it but I have a great diagram from an Ivey School course on the types of failure that I am happy to share


13:17:17             From David Katz : Mixed use like Regent Park so that there is all kinds of rebuilding older neighbourhoods?

13:17:22             From Asif Kurji : @Lisa Sierra – i’d be interested in looking at that

13:17:32             From Brian Pincott : US Municipalities have a lot more levers, especially funding levers, to pull to make housing work. Cities in Canada are much more limited

13:18:09             From Abby S : I hate to say that rational thought seems to have disappeared recently…

13:19:37             From Lisa Sierra : @Asif its the best representation that I have seen that applies to our context

13:20:00             From Gloria Venczel : Municipalities understand governance and its responsibilities where as companies with sometimes Gatsby amount of cash to cover up mistakes are rewarded for high risks and have no concept/experience in governance. Municipalities, with deep governance capacity that could figure out how to enhance/encourage innovation and walk the talk, will set the pace for covid recovery and reap the benefits of leadership, grasp the brass ring.

13:20:17             From Abby S : @Nigel I don’t think it is a small thing at all responding in this way…and not passing the buck. So important

13:20:28             From Abby S : When people are heard…

13:21:29             From Allison Ashcroft : yes greater legibility and more custom/concierge service absolutely, that just requires capacity and latitude something local gov staff have very little of in most divisions and levels.

13:23:14             From Carrie Hotton-MacDonald : COVID is providing us with really great opportunities to rethink how we address these issues. Great points by Mayor Nenshi about addressing homelessness and providing stable supportive housing. We need to do a collective rethink & seize the moment.

13:23:18             From Abby S : you have to ask yourself, Mayor Nenshi…what is the government afraid of … in terms of ending homelessness.

13:23:22             From Abby S : YES will.

13:23:47             From Abby S : That is so cynical…and awful…

13:23:54             From Olga Messinis : It’s dark

13:24:08             From Abby S : I don’t mean cynical on your part…cynical on the part of the government

13:24:09             From Pablo Orozco  to  All panelists : Well said Mayor Nenshi!

13:24:27             From Keren Tang : Love the frankness of this conversation – like all Citytalks!

13:24:41             From Allison Ashcroft : I’m working with folks in our encampment in VIcotria right now to help them come current with taxes and benefit applications. many, obviously not all, but many are entitled to refunds and benefits they’ve not claimed because as Nigel says these sysetms and processes are illegible and daunting particularly if someone is marginalized by those systems and needing to seek shelter, food, hygiene and safety on a daily basis.

13:25:00             From Canadian Urban Institute : You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our sessions at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk

Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb

To support CityTalk and the Canadian Urban Institute’s other city building initiatives, please donate at www.canurb.org/donate.


What did you think of today’s conversation? Help us improve our programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/362jCeV


13:25:24             From Abby S : amazing conversation. yes thank you for openess.

13:27:51             From Stephen Crozier : Absolutely, Andrea!

13:28:19             From David Chaney : +1 on Andrea’s points

13:28:44             From David Crenna : Great conversation on innovation in cities!

13:29:09             From Canadian Urban Institute : Mayor Naheed Nenshi




Nigel Jacob




Andrea Reimer




13:29:22             From David Katz : Hopefully the Infrastructure Bank will provide the funds for the housing in the recovery. Instead of the developers getting rich, we get the pension funds and others to fund the housing while making the low interest rates that are currently available.

13:29:23             From Gloria Venczel : Deinstitutionalization of mental health patients in MetroVancouver from Riverview without community supports is a big part of local homelessness. Income appropriate housing typologies are lacking- not only condos + the single family house. Canada has a long history of a diversity of housing types pre WW2. After WW2, SROs and inner cities in Canada were also redlined by banks + other institutions. The BC Community Land Trust is making great headway in non-market, non-subsidized co-op housing!

13:29:43             From Sandro Pampallona : Thank you all for being so genuinely generous during this talk ! Very much appreciated.

13:29:58             From Natalia Diaz-Insense : Great points about the need to act on the issue of affordable housing, and work with other orders of government.

13:30:04             From Andrea Reimer : +1 on Nigel’s points on innovation >> values neutral innovation is my equivalent to Mayor Nenshi’s dislike of levels of government

13:30:48             From Lisa Sierra : Great conversation – thank you for that insight and call to action @nenshi Thanks everyone

13:31:04             From Canadian Urban Institute : CUI extends a big thank you to our partners for today’s session: Apolitical, Institute of Public Administration of Canada, Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership at the Ivey Business School, and the Canadian Municipal Barometer.




Canadian Municipal Barometer


13:31:11             From Abby S : how do we move beyond talk???

13:31:29             From Tobin Postma : thanks all, very inspiring and yes the challenge is how to move from talk to action, from policy to operation!

13:31:31             From Allison Ashcroft : with provincial funding for additional rent supplements, Victoria’s mayor is having convos with affordable market rental landlords to find 200 units to move 200 more people indoors into existing market rental. but with moratorium on evictions as of sept 1st, those same landlords are issuing 10day eviction notices for nonpayment of rent. we need to watch what’s happening at the back door too as precariously housed folks are going to be pushed on to the street or on to someone’s couch faster than we find additional rent supplements and units to be offered by landlords. let’s use cda infr bank to buy these buildings and place them in community land trusts or nonprofit hoysing providers hands and retrofit them, build on their parking lots, etc. and let’s buy these buildings by offering cap gains tax exmeptions because otherwise we are just driving up the price of the buildings as we compete with REITs to buy them.

13:31:37             From Brian Moss : We are speaking about the Canadian social safety net, at all levels .. having spent $350 Billion or more this year, there will be limits to all these aspirations ..

13:31:46             From Alan Kasperski : Thank you, panel. An excellent use of 90 minutes …

13:31:52             From Canadian Urban Institute : themayor@calgary.ca

13:31:54             From John Fleming : Great conversation folks – lots of great insight and interesting points to “chew on”

13:32:08             From Brian Pincott : Thanks All!!

13:32:12             From Andrea Davidson  to  All panelists : Thank you for all your time and insight!

13:32:17             From Bridget MacIntosh : Thanks for organizing! Great discussion!

13:32:19             From Abby S : thank you.

13:32:25             From Godwin Chan : Thanks

13:32:27             From Julie Jodoin : a great call to ACTION ! Merci beaucoup

13:32:32             From Andrea Reimer : Thanks everyone! Have loved the chat and the comments from fellow panellists. If you want to be in touch andrea.reimer@citizenandrea.ca

13:32:36             From Allison Ashcroft : thank you, so great as always Mary!!!!

13:32:50             From Mayor Naheed Nenshi  to  Allison Ashcroft and all panelists : thank you everyone!

13:33:00             From James LaPierre  to  All panelists : Thanks everyone. Excellent discussion. Let’s get the action part going!

13:33:09             From Mayor Naheed Nenshi  to  Allison Ashcroft and all panelists : thank you everyone!

13:33:17             From Gloria Venczel : Thank you to CUI for this very important convening of the best of munis! Thank you to the speakers!

13:33:21             From Emeka Ekwosimba Ekwosimba : Thank you all