As Edmontonians, we have a lot going for us. We are the youngest city in Canada. Our kids and grandkids go to some of the very best public schools in the world. We have one of the best public library systems on the planet. We’re home to a superb array of post-secondary institutions, making us one of the most versatile and highest educated workforces in the country. And our creative, entrepreneurial spirit continues to drive economic growth in the face of a downturn. These are incredible advantages that we should be better known for; advantages that are already helping us attract and retain people to our city.
But the thing that doesn’t get talked about enough – something that is much harder to package into a brochure – is the incredible quality of life we offer to families. I hear it from surgeons coming here from other bigger cities. I hear it from corporate executives with offices around the world. I hear it from fellow parents around the soccer pitch, or at our Accidental Beach. Indeed, this family friendliness is one of the key reasons so many people come here, and stay, and why many Edmontonians move back after years away from our city. It’s also the main reason why Sarah and I chose Edmonton, after exploring so many other options, as the place we would build our life and raise our family.
So, we thought to ourselves, what if we doubled down on our efforts and made Edmonton Canada’s most family-friendly city? Could this be one of Edmonton’s secret weapons in competing for talent and investment?
There are a number of components to building a city that is family-friendly and one that addresses the needs of modern, diverse families and their kids. This includes being in close proximity to neighbourhood schools, but it also means making it easier for families to thrive in our city – regardless of their background or income level. As part of this effort to transform Edmonton into Canada’s most family-friendly city, I’m proposing that we focus on the following:
- Providing free transit to anyone 12 and under – Let’s make it easier for children to get to school, but also enable families to move around our city, reducing isolation and building community.
- Improve coordination with school boards – As Mayor, I will redouble our efforts to find better ways of working with school boards on community planning decisions – especially when it comes to new school planning and school closures/consolidations. Governments, school boards and local partners should be getting better results by working together on thinking of schools as ‘community hubs’ that include more community amenities.
- Lower speed limits on local roads – We must look at reducing speed limits in areas that we know pedestrians will be clustered, enhance crosswalks and extend crossing times so that seniors, new parents and those with mobility challenges can cross safely.
- Work to expand affordable early learning and care (child care) spaces – Assist in finding new locations for these services, ease regulatory restrictions like parking, and include physical space for affordable, high quality child care in more schools and city buildings like rec centres, affordable housing developments, and in more of our schools.
- Address barriers to success for families experiencing poverty and/or discrimination – Continue the work of End Poverty Edmonton to ensure all our city’s children have everything they need to thrive. I will put special emphasis on countering racism, Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination found in our city with a Mayor’s Task Force on Racism and Discrimination, which will also help sustain our commitment to Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians.
As Edmonton’s young population starts families and plants roots, we need to make sure Edmonton is the best possible place to raise our kids and grandkids. Through these efforts, we can enable the healthy growth and development of young children, which will improve our overall economic and social well-being. As Aristotle said, “The city came into being to preserve life. It exists for the good life.” This is the true power of cities – to be an uplifting force in the lives of the people who choose Edmonton as their home.
“All children and families deserve, and have a right to, high quality early learning and child care. The End Poverty Edmonton initiative identified addressing and providing high quality, affordable, accessible and inclusive early learning and child care as one of the main pillars to lift families and their children out of poverty. The recent motion, jointly put forward by Mayor Iveson and Councillor Esslinger for a report outlining the feasibility of dedicating early learning and child care space in city buildings, is exactly the leadership needed to support children and families in this city.”
– Sonia Grams, Coordinator at Child Development Dayhomes
“Newcomer and Indigenous families face daily barriers to thriving in our city. Don Iveson stands out as a leader in challenging racism, emphasizing that we are one community — a community that welcomes and supports diverse families as a strength.” – Erick Ambtman, Executive Director of Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers
“Our vision for the Community Theatre is a true gathering space in the heart of the community. A place where the community can gather to celebrate achievements, support local Arts initiatives and community events, and share cultural enrichment experiences. People who attend community activities have been shown to be healthier, have lower anxiety and be less subject to depression. Don’s plan to make schools the hub of a neighbourhood, is the model we are trying to achieve with our theatre, and doing this throughout the city will help build a stronger and more inclusive Edmonton.”
– Sue Blocksidge, Chair of the South Edmonton Arts and Theatre Society