Tag Archives: Don Iveson

Grown-up conversations key to solving Alberta’s crowded schools problem.

Premier Jim Prentice Alberta Leadership Race Vote
Jim Prentice scrums with the media after his victory speech on September 6, 2014.

The de-Redfordization process continues this week, as Progressive Conservative Party leader Jim Prentice tries to sweep the memory of Alison Redford from of the minds of Alberta voters.

On Monday, Mr. Prentice promised the construction of four mini “starter-schools” in Calgary to provide relief to overflowing suburban schools. While the new mini-schools are a good temporary solution, it was almost comical to hear another government promise to build schools. During Ms. Redford’s time as premier, promises of new schools were announced, renounced and then renounced again.

And despite delays even then, Education Minister Jeff Johnson offered a “Rock of Gibraltar solid guarantee that 50 new schools and 70 building renovations would be ready by 2016. Mr. Johnson’s “rock,” which had a been a key promise in the 2012 PC Party election platform, has since crumbled (and Mr. Johnson is now the Minister of Seniors).

The starter-schools are a good short-term solution, but they will not solve the larger issue: the provincial government’s relationship with school boards and municipal governments.

The root of the crowded school problem is that municipalities, school boards and the provincial government do a poor job communicating and coordinating growth. As zoning has allowed for suburban sprawl in our cities, cash-strapped school boards have scrambled to respond to a massive spike in student population on the outskirts of our municipalities.

Dependent on provincial funding, schools boards have abandoned already existing (and now underused) infrastructure in central neighbourhoods to focus on building, staffing and maintaining new schools around the city’s edge.

Long-term infrastructure planning in our education system was severely lacking for many years as the provincial leadership recklessly focused on the ideological goal of debt-repayment at any cost (it turns out, it actually cost more in the long-term).

But this is unlikely to change, because provincial politicians enjoy the political cover that schools board trustees provide.

When unpopular decisions need to be made, like closing schools or cancelling programs, then the provincial politicians are more than happy to let the school board trustees take the blame. And when new schools are opened, MLAs and cabinet ministers are eager to cut ribbons and pose for photos.

In a well-articulated blog post, Edmonton mayor Don Iveson explained why it is time for a grown-up conversation between the provincial government and Alberta’s big cities.

“We need to have a grown-up conversation that acknowledges the complex and sophisticated work we are already doing as a local government, and then we need to be crystal clear about the work local governments do on behalf of the province and the country,” Mr. Iveson wrote.

While Mr. Iveson’s comments refer specifically to municipalities, the need for these grown-up conversations also applies to the school boards responsible for administering our education system (I will have more to say about municipalities and Big City Charters in an upcoming column).

If Mr. Prentice is serious about truly breaking from the past and proving his party is better than Mr. Redford, he should start by having some meaningful grown-up conversations with municipal and school board leaders in our province.

Jim Prentice tells Albertans to strap on their seat belts

Premier Jim Prentice Alberta Leadership Race Vote
Jim Prentice scrums with the media after his victory speech on September 6, 2014.

“After two weeks with me as the premier, there will be no doubts in anyone’s minds that this a time of renewal and a time of change. Put your seat belts on.” – Jim Prentice speaking with Roger Kingkade and Rob Breakenridge on September 9, 2014 on News Talk 770.

Wearing your seat belt while driving in a motor vehicle is always a good idea, but in this context, it may not cure the political whiplash endured by Albertans over the past two years.

The interview was a rough start to a mixed week for Jim Prentice, who is in the midst of transitioning into the Premier’s office and is expected to be sworn-in next week. He had positive first meetings with Edmonton mayor Don Iveson and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi. And his rounds of media interviews early in the week were an introduction to many Albertans who are unfamiliar with Mr. Prentice and a departure from his predecessor, who became notorious for avoiding the legislature press gallery.

If his first week of transitioning into the Premier’s Office is going smoothly, the same might not be the case for his first week as leader of the 43-year governing Progressive Conservative Party. Mr. Prentice is already having to deal with allegations about PC MLA Sohail Quadri’s role in accessing voting PIN numbers in last week’s leadership vote and PC MLA David Xiao’s ties to the government-grant funded yet allegedly non-existent “McClung Family Association.”

Cabinet Shuffle next week

Much of the mainstream media coverage this week focused on speculation that Mr. Prentice could appoint individuals from outside the legislature to what is expected to be a smaller provincial cabinet.

As the rumours fly, three names have been widely speculated as prospective outside appointments – AIMco CEO Leo DeBeaver, Conservative MP James Rajotte and former Edmonton mayor Stephen Mandel. Mr. Mandel is currently serving on Mr. Prentice’s transition team and endorsed his candidacy in the PC leadership race earlier this summer.

Alberta Progressive Conservative Party Politics
Progressive Conservative MLAs leaving a morning caucus meeting at Government House in March 2014.

It is expected that any cabinet ministers appointed from outside the Assembly would be required to run in by-elections alongside Mr. Prentice, who currently does not hold a seat in the Alberta Legislature.

As I wrote last week, appointing cabinet ministers from outside the Legislature is not entirely unheard of in Canadian politics but it does come with some risks. Take for example Quebec Premier Bernard Landry, who appointed David Levine as a junior health minister in 2002 only to see him lose a by-election shortly afterward. The defeated candidate resigned from cabinet the next day.

While he may choose to include new talent from outside the PC Caucus, Mr. Prentice will still need to choose the bulk of his cabinet ministers from inside the current PC caucus. And his picks became slimmer yesterday as former Energy minister Ken Hughes announced that he will not seek re-election as MLA for Calgary-West.

New Senior Staff

Mr. Prentice announced that former Liberal MLA Mike Percy will be his Chief of Staff and Patricia Misutka will be his Principal Secretary. Both could bring a stronger Edmonton-perspective to Calgarian Mr. Prentice’s inner circle and appear to be competent choices for the roles.

Dr. Percy is the former Dean of Business at the University of Alberta and served as the MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud from 1993 to 1997 (defeating rookie PC candidate Dave Hancock in 1993). He served as the Official Opposition Finance Critic for much of his time in the Legislature. It is suspected that Dr. Percy would have been appointed as Finance Minister if the Liberals, led by Laurence Decore, had won the 1993 election.

Ms. Misutka is the former Chief of Staff to Mr. Mandel and was one of four co-chairs of Mr. Prentice’s leadership campaign. After Mr. Mandel’s retirement, she worked as a Senior Advisor with the Canadian Strategy Group, a government relations company run by long-time PC Party insiders Hal Danchilla and Michael Lohner.

Redford staffer lands pipeline job

It appears that Alison Redford’s former communications director, Stefan Baranski, has landed a new job as Regional Director for Ontario at with TransCanada’s Energy East Pipeline project.

Alberta Politics Catch Up: Pipelines, Planes, Cities and Rob Anders

Stop the Pipelines Alberta Oilsands 1Spending a few days in another province can sometimes give you a different perspective on important national issues. Spending the last week in British Columbia served as a good reminder to this political watcher about how emotional the debate around pipelines and the Oilsands are in Alberta’s neighbouring province.

Stop the Pipelines Alberta OilsandsWhile I am sure opinion is divided in B.C., I lost count of how many times I spotted “Stop the Pipelines” spray painted across concrete walls or embankments in Vancouver. And it was not just graffiti, the neighbours in the respectable neighbourhood I called home for the weekend even had anti-pipeline signs planted on their front lawns.

Former bank executive Jim Prentice, who will likely become Alberta’s next premier after this weekend’s Progressive Conservative leadership vote, has pledged to get the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline built. But it will be a more difficult job than most Albertans would imagine, and we better become familiar with this reality.

Jim Prentice Alberta PC Party Premier Leader
Jim Prentice

There are many legitimate environmental concerns surrounding the construction of oil pipelines (and the Alberta government’s failure to implement a climate change strategy), but at its base, all sides of this great Canadian debate appear to be basing their positions on emotion, rather than facts and solid arguments.

Back to Alberta politics, Mr. Prentice announced that his leadership campaign raised $1.8 million, which should not be too surprising. As favourite son of downtown Calgary and the front-runner in this contest, Mr. Prentice was expected to bring in the corporate dollars.

Earlier this year, Mr. Prentice warmed up his campaign as the committee chair for the PC Party’s Calgary fundraising dinner in May 2014. The PC Party has never really had trouble raising money, their biggest challenge is that the opposition Wildrose Party is raising just as much (and mostly in small donations from individuals, rather than large corporate donations).

Thomas Lukaszuk MLA Edmonton-Castle Downs
Thomas Lukaszuk

Former deputy premier and PC leadership candidate Thomas Lukaszuk has had a rough week. First, he changed his tune on a $20,000 cell phone bill racked up while he was on vacation in Poland and Israel, now saying that he was taking an emergency call from a cabinet minister, who was in the midst of family dispute. Then, it was revealed that Mr. Lukaszuk had quietly reimbursed the government for $1,400 worth of flights on the government planes in which he brought his daughter.

Mr. Lukaszuk was a harsh critic of former Premier Alison Redford when it was revealed she had misused government planes, including taking her daughter on flights.

Manmeet Bhullar
Manmeet Bhullar

Human Services minister Manmeet Bhullar denied allegations that he offered “dirt” on Mr. Lukaszuk to the opposition parties and that he was the source of the leak. Mr. Bhullar is co-chairing Mr. Prentice’s leadership campaign and is expected to earn a big cabinet promotion if his candidate wins the leadership race on September 6.

The CBC also uncovered that finance minister Doug Horner had taken his wife on 23 separate flights dating back to 2007. Mr. Horner is responsible for the fleet of government planes.

Meanwhile, Edmonton mayor Don Iveson says that time is long overdue for the big cities and the provincial government to have a “grown-up conversation” about funding how we build our cities. In Calgary, popular mayor Naheed Nenshi has given Mr. Prentice, Mr. Lukaszuk and Ric McIver low grades on municipal issues, saying that none of the PC leadership candidate have outlined any significant vision for Alberta’s cities.

The Wildrose Party is trying to distance itself from offensive Conservative Member of Parliament Rob Anders. The party is denying it issued an endorsement after a robocall broadcast to Conservative supporters in the Bow River riding included an endorsement from former Wildrose leader and MLA Paul Hinman.

Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and Strathmore-Brooks Wildrose MLA Jason Hale issued statements late last week denying any connections to Mr. Anders’ campaign. Here is Ms. Smith’s statement:

“While individual Wildrose members may choose to support individual nomination contestants for federal Conservative nominations, Wildrose as a party is neither endorsing nor assisting any nomination contestant in the Bow River electoral district.

No nomination contestant in Bow River can claim the official or unofficial endorsement of the Wildrose Party.

We encourage Albertans who are interested in politics to inform themselves about party nominations and participate in democracy and we wish all the nomination contestants the best of luck.”

And then there were three (white men)

2014 PC Leadership Race Alberta Thomas Lukaszuk Jim Prentice Ric McIver
Alberta PC Party leadership candidates Thomas Luksazuk, Ric McIver and Jim Prentice.

As the deadline for candidates to enter their names (and $50,000 fee) in the contest to become the next leader of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative Association came to a close yesterday, three politicians have put forward their names – bank vice-president and former federal cabinet minister Jim Prentice and former provincial cabinet ministers Ric McIver and Thomas Lukaszuk.

A quick glance at the names of the three candidates confirms that no women or visible minorities have entered the race to fill the position vacated by Alberta’s first woman premier, Alison Redford, who was pushed out of office only a few short months ago. A few woman candidates were rumoured to be interested, but the most high profile of those rumoured, Energy minister Diana McQueen, declined to run, choosing instead to endorse Mr. Prentice.

While Canada reached a high-water mark in recent years, with women occupying the premiers office in six provinces and territories, the number has plummeted after recent elections. Today, only British Columbia and Ontario have women premiers (and Ontario voters will decide the fate of Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals on June 12, 2014).

Alberta could once again enter this category if Official Opposition leader Danielle Smith leads her Wildrose Party to win the next election. Edmonton MLA Rachel Notley is said to be considering a run for the Alberta NDP leadership and some say she would become an instant front-runner if she enters the race.

All three PC leadership candidates have cut their political teeth in Alberta’s largest cities. Mr. Prentice was the Member of Parliament for Calgary-Centre North from 2004 to 2010, Mr. McIver as a Calgary MLA, former Alderman and mayoral candidate, and Mr. Lukaszuk as the MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs since 2001.

The presence of three urban candidates signals both the growing political importance of the province’s two largest cities (and the urban agenda’s put forward by popular mayors Don Iveson and Naheed Nenshi) and the PC Party’s weakness in rural Alberta.

Not having a candidate from rural Alberta is embarrassing for the 43-year governing party. Once almost universally dominated by PC MLAs, the Tories have seen their support plummet in rural and small-town Alberta over the past four years. In the last election, many PC MLAs, including a some senior cabinet ministers, were handily defeated by Wildrose candidates in rural constituencies that had voted enmasse for the PC Party for more than three decades.

This is also the smallest number of candidates to participate in a PC leadership race since the party chose Don Getty as leader in 1985. In 1992, there were 9 candidates; in 2006 there were 8 and the 2011 leadership race attracted 6 candidates.

The small-number of candidates is a testament of the internal turmoil in the PC Party following the coup d’etat that caused Ms. Redford’s departure and the strength of Mr. Prentice’s campaign. Whether it is perceived or real, the ‘Team Prentice’ brand quickly drew the support of more than twenty PC MLAs and an army of party insiders and political consultants.

Unlike the deflated front-runners in previous PC leadership campaigns – Jim Dinning and Gary Mar – Mr. Prentice has succeeded in scaring away most of his credible potential challengers. Whether he suffers the same fate as these former ‘front-runners’, who were later defeated by underdogs, is yet to be seen.

The challenge for the three candidates will be to generate interest in a campaign that already feels like it is a forgone conclusion (a victory by Mr. Prentice). A big question is whether the any of the candidates in this race will be compelling enough to convince those thousands of ‘two-minute Tories‘ to lend them their votes.

Big Money in Edmonton Municipal Election

Don Iveson Karen Leibovici Kerry Diotte Edmonton Election 2013
Edmonton’s 2013 mayoral candidates Don Iveson, Karen Leibovici and Kerry Diotte.

$4.35, $19.75, and $5.45 are how much Don Iveson, Karen Leibovici and Kerry Diotte‘s campaigns spent for each vote received in Edmonton’s October 21, 2013  mayoral election.  With the most efficient dollar-to-vote ratio is Mr. Iveson, who won the election with a landslide 132,162 votes (62% of the total votes cast).

With a less efficient dollar-to-vote ratio was Ms. Leibovici, who earned 41,182 votes (19% of the total vote) while outspending Mr. Iveson by more than $237,500 and declaring a steep $142,415.27 campaign deficit.

Released last week, the financial disclosures for Edmonton’s 2013 Mayoral and City Council elections  detail how much each mayoral and councillor candidate raised and expensed during the campaign. Below is the breakdown for the top three mayoral candidates.

Edmonton Mayoral Election 2013, Financial Disclosure
Candidate Total Revenue Total Expenses Surplus/(Deficit)
Iveson $618,501.63 $576,059.79 $42,441.84
Leibovici $671,171.34 $813,586.61 ($142,415.27)
Diotte $179.912.11 $179,852.76 $59.35

Mayoral candidates Josh Semotiuk and Gordon Ward self-financed their campaigns and did not declare any donations. Candidate Kristine Acielo did not file a financial disclosure.

Here are the financial breakdowns submitted from elected city council candidates competing in Edmonton’s 12 wards.

Edmonton City Council Election 2013, Financial Disclosure
Candidate Total Revenue Total Expenses Surplus/(Deficit)
Andrew Knack $43,143.06 $43,143.06 $0
Bev Esslinger $34,044.28 $33,220.88 $823.40
Dave Loken $97,054.50 $96,906.55 $147.95
Ed Gibbons $93,461.44 $93,254.44 $207.00
Michael Oshry $82,587.85 $82,929.85 $295.00
Scott McKeen $105,862.81 $103,585.54 $2,277.27
Tony Caterina $87,950.00 $87,603.00 $347.00
Ben Henderson $59,335.06 $31,640.26 $27,714.80
Bryan Anderson $68,836.47 $43,783.69 $25,052.78
Michael Walters $107,198.85 $106,744.60 $454.25
Mike Nickel $65,199.00 $64,793.81 $405.19
Amarjeet Sohi $130,840.99 $85,105.30 $45,735.69

According to the Local Authorities Elections Act, donations to municipal election candidates are limited to a maximum of $5,000 for individuals, corporations and trade unions during an election year.

New poll shows Albertans love their Big City Mayors

Don-Iveson-Doug-Horner-Alison-Redford-LRT-Edmonton
Mayor Don Iveson, surrounded by Edmonton city councillors and PC MLAs, responds to the  provincial government’s new committed funds for the LRT (photo by mastermaq, creative commons licensed)

The same poll that showed former Premier Alison Redford with a 75% disapproval rating also showed urban Albertans have huge confidence in the leadership of their big city mayors.

Previously unpublished questions from the same poll conducted by Marc Henry‘s ThinkHQ and provided to daveberta.ca showed Edmonton mayor Don Iveson and Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi with 70% and 71% approval ratings.

Naheed Nenshi Calgary Mayor Awesome
Naheed Nenshi

With Ms. Redford’s resignation sparking a leadership vacuum at the provincial level, Albertans in Edmonton and Calgary have confidence in the leadership of their mayors and  councils.  The poll also showed 58% percent approved or strongly approved of Edmonton City Council and, in Calgary, 60% approved or strongly approved of their City Council.

Elected on a wave of change and optimism in October 2013, Mr. Iveson recently navigated choppy provincial waters to squeeze a major LRT commitment from a provincial government that seemed to leave its capital city in the lurch.

Leading Calgary through the largest flood in recent memory, Mr. Nenshi has helped redefine what it means to be a big city mayor. And he is no slouch. He has remained focused on creating a balanced approach to dealing with the city’s growth challenges while taking on wealthy suburban developers, who declared war on him before his landslide re-election.

The two mayors have many common interests and their cities are facing many of the same growth challenges, but Calgary, Edmonton and Alberta’s other cities are very different political environments. Urban Alberta is not a monolith.

As the Progressive Conservatives scramble to choose a new leader, Mr. Iveson and Mr. Nenshi are well-positioned to drive an urban agenda for Alberta. Their political strength and high approval ratings will make it difficult for the next PC leader and whoever becomes the premier after the next election to ignore the concerns of urban Albertans.

The survey was conducted from March 10 to 16 though ThinkHQ’s Voice of Alberta and Vision Critical online research panel. The sample size included 534 Calgarians and 405 Edmontonians with a margin of error of +/- 4.2% and 4.9%.

LRT funding a big win for Edmonton, but it is enough to save Redford?

Mayor Don Iveson, surrounded by Edmonton city councillors and PC MLAs (photo by mastermaq, creative commons licensed)
Mayor Don Iveson, surrounded by Edmonton city councillors and PC MLAs (photo by mastermaq, creative commons licensed)

Just five days after provincial finance minister Doug Horner was criticized for delivering a budget that was absent of additional funding to expand the south east section of the “Valley Line” of Edmonton’s LRT system,  provincial politicians announced yesterday that it would commit $600 million towards the project.

Surrounded by city councillors and local Progressive Conservative MLAs, and awkwardly crammed into the narrowest section of the Churchill LRT concourse, Premier Alison Redford, Mayor Don Iveson and Mr. Horner announced the details of the the provincial government’s committment:

- up to $250 million under GreenTRIP over three years beginning in 2016-17 upon approval under the second call for GreenTRIP projects.
– up to $150 million in matching provincial funding if the federal government approves this project under the new Building Canada Fund beginning in 2016-17.
– up to $200 million in an interest-free loan to be repaid by the city over 10 years, fully backed by the Alberta Capital Finance Authority.

The announcement followed months of lobbying and public advocacy by Mr. Iveson, councillor Amarjeet Sohi and council members who unanimously made LRT expansion their first priority when they took office last October.

This is exciting news for Edmonton, as the City will now tender contracts and begin construction on the new LRT line next year. When it is completed in 2020, the Valley Line expansion through the south east into Mill Woods will provide LRT service to hundreds of thousands of Edmontonians.

It is, perhaps, not unintentional that much of the funding announced yesterday will be included in a budget that will be tabled immediately before the 2016 election. That budget, and this announcement, will play a defining role in the PC Party’s campaign for re-election.

Amid rumours of caucus dissent, the latest accusations that Ms. Redford used a government plane to attend a PC Party fundraiser and recent polling showing her approval ratings in the 20 percent range, the governing Tories are in desperate need of a public relations win.

Funding for LRT expansion is a big win for Edmonton, but the announcement alone might not be enough to convince Albertans to forgive the scandals that continue to dog the premier and her government.

Kerry Diotte to run for federal Conservative nomination in Edmonton-Griesbach

Kelly Diotte

Former city councillor and mayor candidate Kerry Diotte announced on his Facebook page today that will seek the nomination to run as a a Conservative Party of Canada candidate in the new Edmonton-Griesbach riding in the 2015 election.

Kerry Diotte Edmonton Mayor Election
Kerry Diotte

Mr. Diotte represented Ward 11 on Edmonton City Council from 2010 until 2013. He was a candidate for mayor in the 2013 election, running on a platform that focused almost entirely on potholes, snow removal, spending and debt. When the votes were counted, he was swept aside by the young and dynamic Don Iveson, placing third with 15% of the vote.

The current Edmonton-East riding is represented by Conservative Member of Parliament Peter Goldring. It is unclear whether Mr. Goldring, now serving his sixth-term in the House of Commons, will seek re-election in 2015. Edmonton-Decore PC MLA Janice Sarich announced last month that she would not seek the nomination.

The new riding is considered a battle ground, with the New Democratic Party hoping to build on past growth in the current Edmonton-East riding. Between 2004 and 2011, the NDP vote in the riding grew from 14% to 37%.

Karen Leibovici Edmonton Mayor Election
Karen Leibovici

As reported earlier this week, five candidates have stepped up to run for the NDP nomination in this riding. NDP nomination candidates include Canadian Labour Congress representative Amanda Freistadt, educator Janis IrwinCam McCormickNamrata Gill and Zane Smith.

Since the conclusion of the mayoral election in October 2013, rumours have circulated that Mr. Diotte and his second place competitor, former councillor Karen Leibovici, are eyeing ridings with open Conservative Party nominations in Edmonton.

For up-to-date nomination news, follow the list of Alberta Federal Election candidates.

Don Iveson asks: Do you support LRT expansion?

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson took the the streets, and then to YouTube, to ask Edmontonians if they support expansion of Edmonton’s Light Rail Transit system. The campaign is part of Mr. Iveson’s bid to convince provincial and federal politicians to support the expansion of Edmonton’s light rail transit system, a key part of the city’s transportation infrastructure and a top priority for city council.

Facing enormous population and economic growth, and afforded limited resources as a municipal government, the City is struggling to fund LRT expansion to Mill Woods and west Edmonton (also known as the Valley Line). According to the City of Edmonton, daily ridership of Edmonton’s current north-south LRT Capital Line has grown from an estimated 42,160 in 2004 to 100,760 in 2013.

Edmonton LRT Ridership 2004-2013
Estimated Edmonton LRT ridership from 2004 to 2013 (graph from City of Edmonton 2013 LRT Passenger Count Report)

Hoping that the upcoming provincial budget could include funding for the capital city’s LRT, the mayor and city council are asking Edmontonians to put pressure on their MLA and MP by voicing support for LRT expansion. A second phase of this campaign is expected to be launched next week.

Don Iveson LRT Edmonton Expansion
A popular ad used on the LRT during last year’s mayoral election in Edmonton.

Although Mr. Iveson earned 63% of the vote in the October 2013 election, many provincial Conservatives, including Edmonton PC MLAs Thomas Lukaszuk, Naresh Bhardwaj and David Xiao, publicly endorsed his opponent, Karen Leibovici. Some political watchers suspect the results of the election did not sweeten the already sour relationship between the city and province. And while Premier Alison Redford has been cold towards the idea of granting cities more financial power, saying she’s “satisfied with the way things are,” her party should not forget that city voters are who they owe for their narrow re-election to government in 2012.

Earlier this month, while speaking to the all-party MLA Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future, Mr. Iveson explained  that expansion of Edmonton’s light rail transit system is critical for future growth of the capital city. While the committee was looking for feedback on the creation of high speed rail system through the Red Deer corridor from Edmonton to Calgary, Mr. Iveson argued that the inter-city project would only succeed if effective urban transit systems are already in place.

Mr. Iveson explained to the MLA committee that future expansion of Edmonton’s LRT network depends almost entirely on the availability of funding from the provincial and federal governments.

A short history of LRT expansion in Edmonton
Edmonton’s LRT line began regular service in 1978 and was extended to downtown and the University of Alberta in the 1980s and early 1990s. Expansion was then halted until the mid-2000s, when a new line to south Edmonton was constructed. New stations in north central Edmonton are expected to open in June 2014. The City of Edmonton’s population has grown from 461,361 in 1976 to 817,498 in 2012.

Alberta cities, province fly the Rainbow Flag for Sochi Olympics

Pride Flag Edmonton Sochi Olympics
The rainbow Rainbow Pride Flag flies outside Edmonton City Hall.

Defying the stereotypes of Alberta as a conservative backwater,  Rainbow Pride Flag are flying outside of city halls in Edmonton, Calgary and St. Albert and the Alberta Legislature today in solidarity with the LGBTQ community in Russia. The a small but powerful gesture is a sign of support for a community that has become the target of persecution by harsh laws passed by Vladimir Putin‘s government.

The flags will fly for the duration of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games (and until the end of the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games at the Legislature).

A social media campaign to convince the City of Edmonton to raise the flag was started yesterday by Edmontonian Riyaz Sharan. Once Edmonton agreed to raise the flag, the other Alberta cities and the province followed their lead.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson‘s office released this statement today:

The City of Edmonton raised the rainbow flag today in support ofLGBTQ communities worldwide. The City of Edmonton took this action in solidarity with other Canadian cities such as Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and St. John’s. The flag will fly on the community pole on the southwest side of the plaza in front of City Hall for the duration of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. 

Pride Flag Alberta Legislature Sochi Olympics
The rainbow Rainbow Flag flies outside of the Alberta Legislative Assembly building in Edmonton.

Pride Flag Calgary City Hall Sochi Olympics

Mayor Naheed Nenshi agreed to fly the Rainbow Flag outside of Calgary City Hall today (photo from @chimaincalgary on twitter).
Pride Flag St. Albert City Hall Sochi
The Rainbow Flag flies outside St. Albert City Hall (photo from @tim_osborne on Twitter)