Category Archives: Best Practices

More Articles on Alberta High Speed Rail

From the Western Standard:


A case for the Calgary-Edmonton high-speed train

Robert Vineberg with the Canada West Foundation wants to know what’s holding up a Calgary-Edmonton high-speed train?

Robert Vineberg – July 20, 2009

The release, on July 6, of the Government of Alberta’s report on a Market Assessment of High Speed Rail Service in the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor leads to the consideration of a number of political and policy issues, both provincially and nationally, that might be resolved or, at least, substantially mitigated by a high speed train project.

The Alberta Government faces several problems that could be solved by introducing high speed train service in the Edmonton-Calgary Corridor. Alberta has to show the world that it is committed to a greener economy; it has to improve its transportation infrastructure; and, it has to develop more economic alternatives to the oil and gas industry.


An electrified high speed train service between Edmonton and Calgary would take passengers from downtown Calgary to downtown Edmonton in about an hour or an hour and a half, depending on the technology chosen. This would reduce green house emissions by millions of tonnes, as travellers switch from cars that take at least three hours to make the trip or planes that take as long, including time for check-in and security and time to get to and from the airports.

The transportation infrastructure, particularly in the Edmonton-Calgary Corridor, will need massive upgrading as the population of Alberta continues to grow rapidly. Highway 2 can be endlessly expanded in to a “401 West” or be transformed into a true transportation corridor by the addition of high speed rail. A fast, frequent and reliable rail service linking downtown Calgary, Red Deer and downtown Edmonton, with suburban stations at or near Calgary International Airport and Edmonton International Airport, would be an enormous improvement to Alberta’s transportation network.

In addition, if Alberta were to opt for a high speed rail system, it would be in a strong position to ensure that some of the production facilities be built in Alberta. Manufacturing facilities for the rail and related industries would considerably expand Alberta’s industrial base. In addition, the planning and construction of such a major project would create new expertise within Alberta’s engineering and design industry and create thousands of ongoing jobs. The Alberta Government’s accompanying report on Economics Benefits for Development of High Speed Rail Service in the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor, documents the huge economic benefits that might be generated by the project.

A high speed train from Calgary to Edmonton could also serve to get the Federal Government out of a tight spot. It is inevitable that a high speed train service will be introduced in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor and, in time, extended to both Quebec City and Windsor. It is also inevitable that federal money will be necessary for a project of such scale. And, it is inevitable that the Federal Government would be criticised for making such an enormous investment in Central Canada. Inevitable, that is, unless the Federal Government had already invested in a “demonstration project” elsewhere in Canada, namely the Calgary-Edmonton corridor. Why would the west criticize the Federal Government for making the same investment in high speed rail in Central Canada that it had already made in Alberta? Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the Federal Government would also support a high speed rail project in Alberta.

So, given that it is in the interests of both the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada, not to mention the travelling public, what’s holding up a Calgary-Edmonton high speed train?


12 Councillors, 12 Wards: More Than A Dozen Reasons Why…

Edmonton City Council has passed in first reading the approval of the 12 ward system. The proposal will be coming to Council for a second and third reading on July 22nd. Edmonton will potentially join many other cities in establishing a more accountable and more democratic system of representation. It is expected to pass, but it never hurts to send a note to your letting them know that you support this decision.


Philosophically, it is the right thing to do.


Under the old 6 Ward system, the constituent populations had gotten to an unmanageable level. Campaigning required trying to connect with ward populations of over 100 000 constituents- an almost impossible task. Such large wards naturally favored the incumbents during campaigns based on name recognition– no campaign team could knock on every door. 

The increased cost of campaigning over such a vast region left many candidates more dependent on large donations and saddled with the real-or-perceived political baggage that came with them. More ordinary Edmontonians will now be able to throw their hat into the race, leading to a more accessible, competitive, and engaged democratic debate. 

A 12 Ward system will make for more equitable campaigns, but it will also make for more effective representation. Councillors constantly had to check for duplication of efforts and often the higher-profile Councillor ended up getting the lion’s share of the phone calls and constituent calls. Now there is a clear line of accountability between the Councillor, their constituents, and their concerns. A citizen is always welcome to contact the Mayor, or any Councillor for that matter, with a problem, especially if they do not feel that their elected representative is being effective. However, Councillors will likely have more time to be effective representatives now that they have a smaller constituency base to attend to. 

The concern that Councillors may become too focused on just their ward is mistaken; they are elected to attend to the interests of the city as a whole and judging by how many issues are multi-jurisdictional, it is likely this cooperation will continue.


The map is sound. 


Though it is unfortunate that the Municipal Government Act (MGA) has Councillors drawing up their own constituencies, the wards are well-justified:

– It effectively follows natural geographic boundaries (the river, calgary trail, etc

– It respects community league boundaries, with a couple of minor changes– quite impressive considering that there are 150 leagues.

– It takes into account population variance (61, 276 to 70,840 (-6.1% to +8.6%)) and elector variance (48,529 to 62,152 (-8.0% to +17.9%))

– It takes into account the potential for future growth.


For future consideration:

– Council should not be left to draw up their own boundaries, but they should be established by a non-partisan electoral body.

– The MGA should allow for preferential balloting in elections. This would allow candidates to be ranked according to voter preference. It can easily be done with electronic voting.

– Tax credits should be allowed for municipal campaign contributions.


bettProposed 12 Ward Map

The Buses of Bogotá

The Buses of Bogotá – Video Library – The New York Times.

Quite the improvements…


Paper, Plastic and Persistence

Paper, Plastic and Persistence – Video Library – The New York Times.



An energetic group of volunteers spreads the word about recycling to residents of one of New York City’s public housing projects.


“If we can do it here in the public housing, people can do it anywhere. I hope it becomes contagious.”

Enhancing Edmonton: Embracing Microgeneration

At a quick glance, Federal and Provincial energy policy might seem extraneous to the mandate of Better Edmonton. But as we contemplate the future of our city, energy policies created at other levels of government will have serious implications . Though the Oilsands developments in Northern Alberta draw most of the negative attention from health, environmental and conservation groups with regard to Alberta’s environmental policy, often forgotten is that one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide in our province actually comes from the method by which we generate our electrical power.
“Most of the carbon is emitted by coal-fired electricity generating plants.” – Premier Stelmach
In order to feed our cities’ ever-growing demand for energy, we need to look to the opportunities presented by renewable energy. Ontario recently passed North America’s most ambitious piece of economic and environmental legislation, which will dramatically increase the use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and kickstart the green energy economy. The main tools in this legislative toolbelt are a feed-in tariff; energy efficiency changes to the building code; and significant investment in the green energy economy, an added bonus that is expected to produce 50 000 jobs in ontario in three years.
Recently the Pembina Institute published a report, Understanding Canada’s Federal Support for Renewable Electricity, which noted that renewable energy investments worldwide had a record year in 2008 with over US $120 billion invested. Based on recent budgets, however, the United States will outspend Canada on renewable energy by a factor of almost 14:1. The document further compares incentives for renewable power in the US and Canada, notable as both countries are direct competitors for investment in renewable energy projects.

With peak oil and a climate crisis on our horizon, we have an opportunity to protect ourselves, our children, our economy and our planet by revisiting the way we use and produce energy. Micro-generation offers an alternative that could produce lucrative dividends for our economy, while reducing our cities carbon footprint and reducing the environmental damage done by (un)clean coal.
For more information on “Greening the Grid” Check out a recent report by the Pembina Institute:

Albertans are responsible for almost four times as much global warming pollution as the average Canadian. And close to 25 per cent of Alberta’s GHG pollution comes from its electricity sector. Given the urgent need to tackle global warming, it is clear that coal-fired power is becoming a liability.
Alberta’s renewable energy resource is vast. A new study by the Pembina Institute has found that Alberta could go from producing 70 per cent of its electricity from coal to 70 per cent from clean energy sources in just 20 years.
Using existing renewable energy technologies combined with industrial co-generation and energy efficiency, Alberta could satisfy growing demand for power. It would not need to build a single new coal-fired power plant and could start to phase out the ones already polluting the air.








Further information on the Ontario Green Energy Act from TheStar:


Greater Use of Renewables

The bill proposes enacting a feed-in tariff (FIT) with pricing that will hopefully generate more investment in renewable energy by offering investors greater confidence in the profitability of projects and increasing their access to funding. The FIT will be modeled after Germany’s successful policy.

In addition to the FIT, the bill streamlines the approvals process for renewable energy projects and provides service guarantees for them. It also establishes a “right to connect” to the electricity grid for renewable energy projects.

To support local communities, the bill offers measures to assist developers of smaller community-owned generation facilities and also implements a smart grid in Ontario, with the aim of making it easier for renewables to connect to the system.

Finally homeowners would have access to incentives to develop small-scale renewables such as low- or no-interest loans to finance the capital cost of renewable energy generating facilities like solar panels.

According to Dave Butters, president of the Association of Power Producers of Ontario, member companies of which have installed much of Ontario’s renewable energy facilities so far, the bill will ensure that Ontario makes maximum use of renewable energy.

“A ‘best-in class renewable energy feed-in tariff’ combined with streamlined approvals processes and service guarantees has the potential to help Ontario to leap forward in terms of renewable energy capacity,” he said.

Energy Efficiency Measures

Currently, Ontarians spend just over CAN $7 billion [US $5.6 billion] each year on electricity to power their homes. A 10% efficiency savings would mean CAN $700 million more in the pockets of homeowners across the province. To that end, if the GEA passes, it would help individual consumers, businesses and public institutions take steps to increase energy efficiency in their facilities.

The bill makes energy efficiency a prominent aspect of Ontario’s Building Code by requiring, every 5 years, a review of the efficiency of any given building to identify areas that might be improved through better energy efficiency technology. Further, it establishes an advisory council to provide energy efficiency advice to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

If passd, the bill would create the opportunity for consumers, public institutions and industry to better manage their energy use through various conservation initiatives, one of which may be the establishment of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver as the standard for new government-owned buildings.  It also would require the broader public sector, including municipalities, universities, colleges, schools and hospitals, to develop energy conservation plans.

In terms of household appliances and water use, the bill would require the use of Energy Star appliances as standard and require that households make efficient use of water. Homes would be required to have an energy audit prior to their sale, which some authorities say would put a “second price tag” on all homes sold in the province.

Local distribution companies would have mandatory conservation targets as well as incentives to help them achieve the targets. Ontarians living in low-income housing would also benefit from conservation measures targeted at that sector.

Green Economy

The proposed bill is estimated to create 50,000 jobs in Ontario in three years with its benefits sweeping across all communities. Employment will be in every sector,according to some analysts, from steel workers to lawyers, manufacturers and contractors.

Toronto-based Trillium Power Wind Corp., an offshore wind developer currently at work on a 710-MW facility in Lake Ontario, sees the plan as a step in the right direction.

“The Ontario government clearly recognizes that you need to make a long-term commitment to renewable energy in order to reap the economic benefits of a green economy,” said John Kourtoff, President and CEO of Trillium. “They are way ahead of the game on this, and Ontarians are going to significantly benefit from this transformational legislation.”

“Ontario’s Green Energy Act could propel the province past California as the most innovative North American leader in the renewable energy field,” contributor Denis Hayes, former director of NREL and founder of Earth Day.

“This is the sort of healthy, friendly competition between Canada and the U.S. that will leave us both better off.”

Community Supported Agriculture in Edmonton

 Already a fixture in Calgary (, community supported agriculture (CSA) ( is beginning to emerge in Edmonton. CSA’s essentially provide local farms with a dedicated clientele, in the form of individual households, that pledge to buy their produce directly. This provides the farm with cash-on-hand and provides the households with high-quality, locally grown food on a weekly basis.


Especially with such high-quality farmland in the NE section of the city, Edmonton has the potential to be a national leader in local food security. CSAs are an excellent first step toward creating a resilient local food economy. This will reduce the city’s environmental footprint as it relates to food production, create and sustain local jobs and, of course, put fresh, delicious, local produce on the tables of Edmonton’s families.


Check out (and sign up with!) two of Edmonton’s fledgling CSAs:


The Good Food Project (hurry, registration closes on July 6th)


Sparrow’s Nest Organics



Farming has been such a vital component of Edmonton’s history, wouldn’t it be fitting if it were a cornerstone of Edmonton’s future? 

Small Cities Working to Create Vibrant Downtowns :: News ::






The movement is catching on

Prince Georges project began in 2008 when the city teamed up with Smart Growth on the Ground SGOG, an offshoot program of Smart Growth BC that seeks to help B.C. communities prepare more sustainable neighborhood plans. It looks at land use, transportation, urban design, and building design plans in small to mid-sized B.C. communities and develops new concept plans that encourage smarter development socially, environmentally, and economically.