Voice of Albertans with Disibilities logo

The information Voice of Albertans With Disabilities, with input from a number of members, created for the Municipal Election is being used by a number of organizations to encourage discussion with candidates.

The Disability Action Hall, Calgary has created a handout using the material. It is great to see the information is proving helpful to engage in the election process.

The attached Candidate handout City Election 2017 is on our website and you are welcome to share it broadly. Thanks to the Disability Action Hall for providing this to us.


Voice of Albertans with Disibilities

Coliseum Edmonton

This institution has been destroyed.

They should turn the Coliseum into a state of the art medical facility with fitness center – the surrounding area should all be turned into senior living, affordable high rises, convenience stores, small businesses – It is a jewel – LRT is right on your doorstep – What a special place – In the late 70’s this area had a master plan and was suppose to have high-rises built around the coliseum

City council unanimously approved a plan Wednesday to take back and close Northlands Coliseum at the end of 2017.
It doesn’t necessarily mean demolition for the site of so many great hockey moments. But that’s now on the table.
“A big piece of Edmonton’s history … is in jeopardy,” said Coun. Mike Nickel, who said he deeply regrets having to vote Yes. He sat up for most of the night reading again through all the paperwork, he said.
“I just can’t see another natural outcome.”

Starting Jan. 1, the Coliseum will be permanently closed as a sports and entertainment venue. Its future will depend on the results of a redevelopment plan for the full 65-hectare campus, which is expected to be released in draft form by early 2018.
Saving the full building is unlikely, but it’s possible some pieces of the Coliseum structure, a wall or some seating, could be incorporated into a new amateur sports venue or other facility on the site, said Mayor Don Iveson.

The good news is the deal also restructures the downtown arena deal, removing the part Iveson said he “choked the hardest on” when it was approved during council’s last term.
In the deal, Edmonton committed to pay $2 million a year for 10 years to Daryl Katz’s Oilers Entertainment Group in a sponsorship deal that also gave council access to a luxury suite.
Iveson said that was unprecedented and “really inappropriate” — so much so, he never set foot in the suite.

But the Oilers Entertainment Group has agreed to cancel that sponsorship payment if Edmonton closes the Coliseum, which frees up the remaining $17 million to spend on an amateur sports facility or anything else Edmonton wants to build.
The city will also take ownership of the Expo Centre at Northlands on Jan. 1, with control of the Northlands race track to come later in 2018 or when racing moves to a new facility planned outside the city. The Expo Centre will be run by the Edmonton Economic Development Corp., along with its downtown Shaw Conference Centre.

The Northlands organization will refocus on supporting agriculture, food and added-value products in the region. It will have access to the Expo Centre to run Farmfair International and K-Days for at least five years.
Northlands president Tim Reid issued a short statement and was unavailable for further comment.
“We credit mayor, council and administration for addressing outstanding issues. Northlands is committed to the highest degree of professionalism through this transition and ask all involved to respect the impact on our 2,800 employees and 1,500 volunteers,” he stated. “We look forward to returning to the site to host Northlands signature festivals in K-Days and Farmfair International.
“Our organization is optimistic for the future and will be a provincial leader in agriculture, food and events.”
Ward 7 Coun. Tony Caterina said the vote was meant to set up Northlands to succeed in its new role. For local neighbourhoods, “this is a great opportunity … to repurpose 160 acres.”
He said Northlands has requested access to the urban farm and beehives near the west end of Borden Park, but those details are still being negotiated.

The land around Northlands always belonged to the city, which also back-stopped the loan on the Expo Centre redevelopment. As for the Coliseum, Northlands simply couldn’t afford to keep it open, even with several events tentatively booked for 2018.
The organization looked at many opportunities to repurpose the building and found none viable, said Iveson. Even the hockeytournament centre idea with the Hockey Canada centre of excellence was going to cost $102 million. Council backed away from that after discovering it would cost more to renovate the purposebuilt facility than build new.

Iveson said the Canadian Finals Rodeo in November will likely be the last event held in the Coliseum. He hopes the event can move downtown in 2018.
When asked if a dance party, massive paintball game or other goodbye event for community members could be in the works, Iveson said council had not thought about that yet, but added: “Those are good questions for us to ask.”

Elise Stolte
Edmonton Journal

Aamazon Canada

In order to win Amazon HQ YOU need to give away the house BUT you will get it back 1000 times.  Give them what they want.

Coliseum may be ideal.

If history is any indication, Canadian governments — and their possibly less-enthused taxpayers — may have to empty their pockets if they want to win the sweepstakes for Amazon.com Inc.’s new North American home.

Amazon announced last week it will open a second corporate headquarters on the continent, with the e-commerce giant expecting to spend more than US$5 billion on the project and provide up to 50,000 “high-paying jobs” for the lucky city. The announcement set politicians’ hearts aflutter across Canada and the United States, leaving them with less than two months to put together a bid before the Oct. 19 deadline for responses.

“Every city would die to have this,” said Walid Hejazi, associate professor of economic analysis and policy at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
So far, officials from Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Kitchener-Waterloo have all expressed interest in the project.
But convincing Amazon to locate the campus it is calling HQ2 north of the border could be a tall — not to mention expensive — order for Canadian cities.

Amazon laid out some of its demands in a request for proposal document, hinting that it will take some serious generosity to earn its investment. In addition to voicing a preference for a metropolitan area with a population of more than one million people, Amazon also highlighted the “incentives” a government may wish to offer, mentioning free land costs, grants and tax credits.
“We acknowledge a project of this magnitude may require special incentive legislation in order for the state/province to achieve a competitive incentive proposal,” said the company’s RFP.
“Amazon is in a very, very strong bargaining position,” Hejazi said, adding that the company probably still wants to avoid overplaying its hand for fear of souring relations with their new hosts.

In the past, the federal government has teamed up with provincial governments to offer grants and incentives to encourage large investments from particular businesses. For example, Ontario and the federal government each gave Ford Motor Co. conditional grants of up to $102.4 million as part of a $1-billion deal announced in March.
The grants were to help fund research and development at the company’s Canadian facilities.
In the case of Amazon, grants around that 10-per-cent level could cost governments more than $1 billion in total.
In a statement attributed to Economic Development Minister Navdeep Bains, the federal government told the Financial Post, among other things, that “we welcome the opportunity to engage with our provincial and municipal counterparts to attract further investments and resilient jobs.”

Ontario has also provided funding on its own on occasion, including an up to $220-million grant to Cisco Systems Inc. that was announced in 2013, part of a potential $4-billion investment by the tech company. That’s not far off the size to what Amazon is now promising.
“When you have a Cisco locate in Canada and create those kinds of jobs, the whole ecosystem around it is really high-value and beneficial to the Canadian economy,” Hejazi said.

Amazon could end up fielding some exorbitant offers, based on recent developments. Wisconsin is currently weighing a US$3billion incentive package for Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology Group, in return for a new US$10-billion liquid-crystal display plant.
Governments seeking Amazon’s site may be better off just slashing taxes, suggested Jeffrey Miron, director of economic studies at the libertarian Cato Institute and a senior lecturer at Harvard University.
“I suspect they’re going to have to more or less promise not to impose any significant business taxes, like corporate income taxes,” Miron said in a phone interview.

Geoff Zochodne
Edmonton Journal

Edmonton City Hall

A sweeping review of Edmonton’s buying and building processes says city officials have rushed major projects to tender and can’t prove the system is getting good value for money.
That sobering critique from city auditor David Wiun was presented to councillors Monday.

For example, city officials went to tender on a $142-million construction project, then changed the drawings and specifications seven times during the bidding process, said Wiun.
That prompted 600 questions back from confused contractors, resulting in changes to the city’s instructions to those teams three times, and extensions to the bid deadline five times.
That was on the second try. The first attempt was so error-ridden, it had to be cancelled, Wiun said, offering this unidentified example as just one project where it was obvious city officials were rushing the process.

“It’s not good,” Coun. Michael Oshry said after the meeting. “(City officials) have been doing this for years — big dollars, lots of projects. You would think they would have that system relatively down pat already.”
“I was surprised. This is a concerning one.”

The city signs 1,700 contracts totalling $1-billion worth of construction and professional services a year.
Wiun’s recommendations included not letting an employee with a known conflict of interest evaluate the bids.
The city should also make any mandatory requirements in the bid more clear, give companies more time to bid on projects and better document how bids are evaluated.

“Eight recommendations in an audit report, that is high,” Wiun said, explaining the audit deals with one of the most high-risk areas of city performance.
Short bid timelines and confusing tenders limit the number of companies willing to bid, which can drive up costs, he said, after his team reviewed 86 tenders for projects posted and evaluated between January 2015 and October 2016.
Auditors found one case where someone with a conflict of interest was allowed to evaluate the bids, and another where someone who showed bias toward one of the bidders was allowed to continue.
When the city goes to tender, 83 per cent of the time it has to add “addenda” or additional clarification. In 16 cases, city officials had to add clarifications five or more times, which meant companies bidding on the process may scramble to change their bid.
Companies bidding on a project are not paid, and a complex bid represents up to two months of work and hundreds of pages of technical documents, said deputy city auditor Ed Ryl.
“If there are any restrictions that limit the amount of bids, any perception that bids may not be evaluated properly … and it leads to vendors not bidding, there definitely is a risk the city is not getting the best value all the time,” said Wiun. “It is serious.”
Wiun gave other examples of poor procurement practices. In one case, the city had just one successful bid. It awarded a $300,000 contract, only to be told the price would be 32 per cent higher. It accepted that without negotiation.
In another case — a bid for professional services — the city reduced qualifications halfway through to accommodate the company that won the bid. Then the company said a junior staffer would serve half the time. The city accepted that while still paying the full rate for a more experienced partner.

City officials said they accepted all of Wiun’s recommendations. Some have already been implemented and others will be done by March 31.
City financial officer Todd Burge said none of the recommendations came as a surprise to his team because they’ve been trying to improve this area for two years. They knew Edmonton had a problem after two previous audits specific to the city’s handling of waste contracts and the sand recycling program. That waste management issue involved a sole-sourced contract and paying truckers for hours when they had no work. The $74-million sand recycling contract was issued to a former employee without proper oversight.
Burge said they rolled out training for staff on the bid process and contract management in early 2017.
Part of what’s causing staff to rush is the pressure to have projects delivered on time, he said.
“Time is not the most important thing to me. I think the focus should be on value. But the pressure comes on time from everyone.”.

Elise Stolte
Edmonton Journal

Edmonton City Hall

Management at Edmonton’s City Hall has adopted eight recommendations from the city auditor after potentially multi-million dollar problems were uncovered in how construction contracts are procured from the private sector.
The problem was, staff rushed some jobs and didn’t take enough care to make sure the contract was right.

The audit pointed out conflicts of interests in the tendering process, as well as situations where staff wasn’t properly trained, documentation wasn’t done correctly and the size and scale of an entire project wasn’t considered fully.
“It is serious and eight recomendations for an audit report, that is high,” city auditor David Wiun said.
One un-named example was a $142 million project. It led to delays for both the city and the bidding vendors because all of the details weren’t clear at the outset.

“That particular case identified a lack of preparedness on the city’s part,” deputy city auditor Ed Ryl said. “There were numerous addendums and it led to a lot of extra work on the part of the vendors as well, responding to the additional addendums. We highlighted that.

Chief financial officer Todd Burge said the problem was first noticed a couple of years ago in waste management so changes were begun on the whole “procurement to pay” process. Wiun added that the sand recycling audit a year ago led his department to look at the entire city operation.
“They’re almost re-engineering the way they do a procurement now,” Wuin said on how all eight recommendations are being acted on. “So they are taking it serious and I believe they should take it serious.”

Adam Laughlin, the deputy city manager who handles the infrastructure file, told audit committee they’re talking to the industry sooner in the bidding process, so they can improve a projects’ design, size and scale in each “gate” of the process.
“In some cases you might want to engage construction or the industry in the those early gates, to ensure that the right type of scope is defined prior to procurement.”

Mayor Don Iveson asked if that means it will become less likely for projects come in over time and over budget and was told more design upfront would make that possible.
“That is a learning organization,” Mayor Iveson said.

Burge said upwards of 90 per cent of projects come in on time and on budget.
“It’s always the big ones,” he said of the other 10 per cent. “They’re the ones that tend to be more complex and have greater risks. And I think that part of the changes that we’ve made in the way that we’re doing our capital will address some of those risks on the bigger projects.”

“We’re coming off an incredible 15 years of growth that we’ve ever had,” Burge added. “We have an opportunity now to adjust a whole bunch of processes in the city, catch ourselves up of being a bigger city in the kind of process and control you need to be a bigger city and I think this all part of that maturation.”

The city handles about $1 billion in contracts each year covering construction and services. The audit said by rushing things, quite often, not all possible vendors bid which can increase prices.

Edmonton Journal

Accidental Beach

Accidental beach is like a Brigadoon in our midst

Edmonton residents have embraced the unexpected delight of the “Accidental Beach” on the North Saskatchewan’s banks.

The morning after I visited Edmonton’s accidental beach, I happened to catch a snippet of a CBC Radio interview with game designer Ian Bogost. He’s a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology and author of Play Anything: The Pleasure of Limits, The Uses of Boredom and the Secret of Game.

I was deeply struck by something Bogost said.

“It’s not exactly right to think of fun as pleasure. It’s something slightly different. It’s rather the experience of finding something new, of novelty, and in particular of finding something new in something familiar, in which it doesn’t seem like anything new can be found,” he told interviewer Anna-Maria Tremonti.

“That’s one of the things that tends to make games or any kind of experience fun, is the capacity that the thing offers for the player, the user, to do something different with it than they’ve thought of or done before.”

And that’s the secret of Edmonton’s accidental beach, and the fun and joy it has brought the city, in the twilight of summer. It appeared on the shores of the North Saskatchewan River, something new in the midst of something familiar. And it makes people see and think about the river in a new way.

The accidental beach, or as some wags have dubbed it, Sand District, wasn’t planned.

It wasn’t a municipal megaproject. The big sandbar formed unintentionally as a side-effect of the construction of the new Tawatina LRT bridge. A construction berm slowed the water and created a one-kilometre long beach, roughly 25 metres wide, on the south side of the river near Cloverdale.

The beach was something of a neighbourhood secret — until my colleague David Staples outed it on our front page three weeks ago.

Since then, Edmontonians have been flocking to the shore, determined to get in some fun in the sand, and what’s left of the sun, before it’s too late — at times overwhelming the patience and hospitality of Cloverdale residents, who’ve suddenly found themselves inundated with cars and garbage and urban tourists.

I went down Tuesday after supper with my dog and my daughter. There was a strange and delightful atmosphere, even as we approached the gravel path that leads down, down, down to the water.

People we passed, whether coming or going, all seemed to be giggling with suppressed delight, happy and proud to be in on the “secret,” trading tips on the best ways and places to get down the steep bank to the sand.

There was a surprising sense of camaraderie, spurred, perhaps, by the sense that we were all doing something slightly illicit. That we were trespassers, or explorers who had found the secret route into Narnia or Oz or Wonderland.

And then, there it was. A clean white sandy beach, with scarcely any litter, and none of the green pond scum that bedevils so many of our regional lakes. The water wasn’t exactly warm, but it wasn’t frigid either, certainly not cold enough to discourage the children and canines frolicking in the knee-deep current.

All along the water’s edge were sandcastles, in various states of glory or decay. Never had I seen our Edmonton, or our river, look like this.

I grew up in Edmonton. And I grew up with the sense that the river was something to be feared. We learned early on that it was dirty and deep and dangerous, something to admire, perhaps, from a safe distance, but not a place to play. But that night, as I waded into the clear water with my puppy, I saw and felt the river in an entirely new way.

We’re not yet ready to say goodbye to summer, or to the beach. I understand the people who want the city to figure out a way to keep the beach in situ, when the bridge construction ends.

But I wonder if the accidental beach would feel quite as magical if it came with garbage cans and porta-potties and staircases and picnic tables, the appurtenances of a permanent public “attraction.”

Part of the so-called Sand District’s appeal is its ephemeral nature, its sense of found joy. Like Brigadoon, it popped up unexpectedly out of the mist, and we fell in love. Now that the city is adding parking restrictions and one-way traffic rules, now that the Riverkeepers have noted a higher than ideal E. coli count, some of that initial innocence already seems lost.

Small wonder that in our landlocked winter city, one pop-up summer beach stole our hearts. Who could blame us, if we spent the dark cold months of the calendar, dreaming of its return?

North Saskatchewan River

The new-found love for the North Saskatchewan River brought on by Edmonton’s “Accidental Beach” may create a movement to keep the water clean.

That’s according to Hans Asfeldt, manager of water literacy with the North Saskatchewan Riverkeeper.

“Before (Accidental Beach), most people didn’t realize that our city’s stormwater and combined sewer discharges sometimes make it unsafe to swim. What we’re seeing now is that the more people fall in love with the river, the more we are willing to make the necessary improvements to our infrastructure that will ensure clean water not only at (Accidental Beach), but also for communities downstream.”

, Asfeldt said in a news release Friday.

The Health Canada Standard is 200 colony forming units (CFU) per 100 mL of water or below, to limit the contraction of waterborne illnesses to one to two per cent, or 10 to 20 illnesses per 1,000 swimmers.

Accidental Beach, also known as Cloverdale Beach, had a higher level of E. coli than previous samples at 746 CFU/100ml on Sept. 5, compared to 238 CFU/100ml on Aug. 29 and 123 CFU/100ml on Aug. 22.

“Water quality in the North Saskatchewan River has improved drastically in recent decades, but there is still work to be done But when conditions are right and with the appropriate precautions, the river can offer excellent opportunities for swimming as well as a variety of recreation activities”

, Asfeldt said.

The group also monitors quality on the Fort Edmonton Footbridge Sandbar, Laurier Park Boat Launch and the Capilano Park Boat Launch.

Catherine Griwkowsky
Edmonton Journal

John Oplanich Tshirt

FC Edmonton needs a permanent home.  We need to build this franchise for our children.

The National Football League is making news not just because the league starts play this week, but because of who is not playing.

Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refuses to stand for the American national anthem, has not been signed by any team. Many observers believe that Kaepernick’s kneeling during the anthem, to protest police brutality and racial oppression, has led to him being blackballed. Other players have followed Kaepernick’s lead and several groups have organized demonstrations and boycotts of the NFL.

It is not surprising that sport can be exclusive and divisive. But sport also has the power to bring people of diverse backgrounds together. The Canadian Football League recently rolled out its Diversity is Strength campaign. It includes team personnel on the sidelines wearing T-shirts during games featuring the slogan “Diversity is Strength.” Those same words were used by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in January when President Trump was attempting to close U.S. borders to certain groups of people. The campaign, which emphasizes the diverse nature of the players in the CFL, was unveiled after the Charlottesville protest.

A spokesperson revealed that the campaign, designed to emphasize multiculturalism in recognition of Canada’s 150th anniversary, was to have launched in the fall, but was released early after the Virginia tragedy. With this campaign, the CFL joins the lengthy list of other Canadian companies seeking to use multiculturalism to boost business. Many Canadians have long held the belief that high rates of immigration and the policy of multiculturalism strengthen the country.

The T-shirts feature a long list of players with diverse surnames. An accompanying ad is available on the internet and is airing on television.

John Oplanich T-shirt

Many Canadians stereotypically believe that racial and ethnic tensions are less of a problem in Canada. However, Canada’s history of racial and ethnic relations has recently been called into question not only with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission but also the renaming of the Langevin Block and the Ontario teachers union’s request to erase John A. Macdonald’s name from schools.

The CFL could be accused of attempting to capitalize on the Charlottesville tragedy by espousing the superiority of Canada over the United States. However, a statement from the CFL suggested the campaign is designed to counter racial and ethnic hostility and “shine a spotlight on inclusiveness and unity following the events that took place in Virgina.”

Historically, Canadian football seems to have been less afflicted with racial problems. Black quarterbacks like Bernie Custis, Chuck Ealey and Warren Moon played in Canada after being denied a chance in the U.S.

Custis is one name featured in the campaign. Another is Herb Trawick, a former Montreal Alouette who broke the colour barrier in professional football. Tom Casey’s name is also featured. Casey, an African-American, was a star for Winnipeg while in medical school and was once named Winnipeg Citizen of the Year.

However, football in Canada has many dark episodes as well. George Reed’s image is shown during the video. Reed had trouble renting an apartment when he moved to Canada, and, at the time, spoke about racism he encountered. Others included on the list are players born in Germany (Zenon Andrushyshyn), Italy (Wally Buono), Iran (Sherko Haji-Rasouli), Fiji (Bobby Singh) and Belgium (Pierre Vercheval).

Players of Greek descent (Leon Hatziioannou and Pete Giftopolous), Polish and Ukrainian (Duane Dmytryshyn, Tony Pajaczkowski, and Joe Poplawski), Hawaiian (Joe Paoapao), Hungarian (Ken Szarka), Serbian (the Zizakovich brothers) and also players of Asian descent (Brad Yamaoka, Brian Chiu and Normie Kwong) are included.

The list also includes Indigenous players J.R. Larose and Jack Jacobs, and a Muslim (Obby Khan) of Indian descent.
The video reminds fans that diversity includes more than just race and ethnicity with Catherine Raiche, assistant general manager for the Alouettes.

Three years ago the CFL partnered with You Can Play, an organization dedicated to ensuring equality without regard to sexual orientation.

Sport can be divisive, after all it is about us versus them. However, at a time when societal problems associated with racial and ethnic divisions seem to be at the forefront, it is reassuring to be reminded that sport can bring together diverse peoples.

John Valentine
Edmonton Journal