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Scanning the Landscape – Celebrating 25 years

In the fall of 2016, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation celebrated 25 years of making a difference for the industry and Albertans. Since 1991, we have awarded grants to over 537 worthwhile industry and community causes—that’s more than $17.5 million dollars of support across the province.

Given the economic times in Alberta, the Foundation decided it was a good time to check in with our stakeholders to see how they think we’re doing and engage in a conversation about the state of our province. As such, we chose “Scanning The Landscape” to be the theme of the year’s strategy as we reflected on our current situation while looking forward to future opportunities to ensure the Foundation remains true to its mandate of funding initiatives and research that make Alberta great.

In the spirit of “Scanning The Landscape”, we held two World Café styled luncheons, one in Calgary and another in Edmonton. More than 100 stakeholders, including government, industry, and grantees, attended the events where they were able to network and provide input.

Following the luncheons, 65 former and current grantees were invited to participate in an on-line survey to give input on the Foundation’s strategy and values, grant process and evaluation process as well as communications. The findings from this survey, along with the notes from the World Café luncheons, will help inform the Foundation’s strategy and help it become a more effective funder.

The following report pulls primarily from data collected from the survey:

 

 

The Newtonian Shift: playing an energy transition game

By Jennifer Allford

“Endure the chaos,” the facilitator says. “It’s part of the game.” And with that, a few dozen of us start playing the Newtonian Shift, a half-day “role-playing simulation” in a boardroom in downtown Calgary.

Think Monopoly on steroids. But instead of buying and selling property, we’re buying and selling infrastructure and different sources of energy. And we don’t sit around the table rolling the dice and moving a top hat or fancy boot along the board.  Everyone is up moving around the room, cutting deals with other players, going to the table that acts as the energy marketplace and watching as the grid grows and changes on the map of Newtonia in the middle of the room.

Newtonia is a fictitious land with an old electricity grid. Its leaders want to build a more sustainable system that uses fewer fossil fuels and has a new grid that can accommodate using more renewables. Each of us in the room is a player in that very complex system. We take on a title that’s foreign to us. Business people represent NGOs. Environmentalists run energy companies. Oil and gas engineers represent municipalities. We play roles in First Nations communities, the agriculture industry, a giant tech company or a steel supplier.

Years of change is compressed into a few hours. Every few minutes, the facilitator announces the passing of another month and we give each other panicked looks. It’s moving so fast. We haven’t replaced coal with enough solar. The municipality has no power. The strips of plastic that represent the grid don’t yet reach the First Nations community.

Every now and then there is a policy announcement from the government—subsidies for solar, a new tax on fossil fuels. Regular news flashes throw a wrench in the works—an especially cold winter sees energy prices skyrocket, a malfunction in the system is causing outages in the industrial district.

It is indeed chaos. And instructive. And fun.

At the end of the game we are all exhausted from running around the room frantically trying to change the energy system of Newtonia. We happily sit down at our tables and go around the room recounting what we were able to accomplish and where we failed. We analyze deals that were made and others that fell apart. We hear from each other and each and every sector.

As we pack up the map of Newtonia, picking up the gold strips of the new grid and the black strips for the old one, we have all seen firsthand the incredible complexity of transitioning from fossil fuels to a cleaner energy system.

After being immersed in unfamiliar roles and representing other sectors, we leave for the day knowing that as well a new grid, Alberta’s energy transition is going to require a lot of understanding across the board and plenty of dialogue among the many players.

The Newtonian Shift was developed in the Netherlands and adapted for use in Alberta with a grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

See the game in action here.

 

Alberta’s water news gathered for you

When it comes to water, everything is connected – it is completely unique in this respect. In addition to being a critical resource for life, it supports the environment, economies, and social well-being. The average Canadian uses 329 liters of water daily but how many of us think about where it comes from, or the issues and challenges we face to manage and protect this precious resource across Alberta?

One way to be informed about water in Alberta is the Alberta WaterPortal Society News Digest. This twice-weekly service is your informant for water news, events and issues provincially, along with comparisons and insights nationally and internationally. With the huge influx of news and media in our world, it can be time consuming to sift through the most relevant and accurate information and that’s where the News Digest can help. If you’re interested in water, all the sorting is done for you – saving you time and energy while leaving you informed.

Many subscribers enjoy reading news from all across Alberta:

“The WaterPortal provides excellent information on all relevant topics – it’s the birds-eye-view for what I like to consume on water-related topics and discussions.”

“The Alberta WaterPortal does an amazing job of aggregating all things related to water in Alberta (and beyond sometimes). This is an incredibly important function. Also love the original content too!”

In line with the Alberta WaterPortal Society’s values to operate transparently, without bias and with inclusivity, the News Digest provides a well-rounded service to encourage discussion and inform decisions for a better water future.

We encourage you to join our loyal subscribers via www.albertawater.com/sign-up-for-our-newsletter. You can also check out our work, including the innovative Alberta Water Nexus Project kindly supported by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, via www.albertawater.com

Protecting the Bighorn as a Wildland Park

By Hilary Young, Y2Y

Long before I started working with Y2Y, I’d heard about the allure of the Bighorn Wildland – especially the cold, clear tributaries and waterfalls that form the headwaters of the North Saskatchewan River. I was excited to experience this landscape firsthand with my colleagues over the summer, as one of Y2Y’s major goals is to protect the Bighorn as a Wildland Park.

We started out on the trail to the Siffleur Falls, crossing a long suspension bridge and a wooden boardwalk before gaining elevation on the limestone hills. Four kilometers passed quickly, and we were caught by surprise when the trail narrowed and the limestone suddenly cut away into the sloping Siffleur Canyon.

When we came upon the cascading falls a few hundred meters further, we sat for a while in awe, gaining perspective on the steady natural forces that pre-date humans by just staring thoughtfully into the river canyon. For how many hundreds of thousands of years has clean, quick-flowing water been wearing away rock? And for what tiny fraction of this have we been meddling with natural processes and having a disproportionate impact?

After taking photos (which of course failed to capture the emotional experience the canyon evoked in person), we started our hike back out. I knew that the Siffleur River flowed into the North Saskatchewan and then into the Edmonton Capital Region’s water supply. I knew that these tributaries lay within an intact landscape that provided quality habitat for threatened species like grizzlies. But getting out into the Bighorn gave me an emotional connection to a place I could recite facts about — I now understood on a more visceral level that industrial resource extraction and motorized recreational vehicles had no place here. The ancient canyon was the perfect symbol for wild lands that have a timeline, purpose and rhythm well beyond our own.

The Bighorn Wildland that lies between Jasper and Banff National Parks needs to be protected as a Wildland Park. This vast landscape of low elevation foothills, broad valley bottoms, ridgelines and mountains is part of the interconnected Yellowstone to Yukon region, one of the last intact mountain ecosystems left on Earth. Over a million Albertans downstream of the Bighorn, in places like Edmonton and Clearwater County, rely on the water that its tributaries and rivers provide.

Please help protect these lands by calling or writing your local MLA to let them know you want the Bighorn to be designated a Wildand Park! Visit us at loveyourheadwaters.ca for more information.

 

New Information Hub On Accessibility Launched

Accessible U is a newly launched website that provides practical resources about residential accessibility in a friendly format. As a centralized location for data, research, toolkits and practical information, Accessible U makes relevant and understandable information readily available to anyone, anytime.

Accessible U is a resource for people living with a physical disability, for caregivers, advocates and health care providers. It is also useful for realtors, seniors-serving groups, community members, home builders and developers, informing and empowering them with knowledge they need, when they need it. It has been designed with rich, clear information on the basics of accessibility, how to modify or locate a home, community services and advocacy.

Accessible U is led by Accessible Housing, a Calgary not-for-profit, and was developed with the help of dozens of community members. These include persons with disabilities, experts from the health-care sector, construction companies and developers, public service staff, non-profit organizations, and college and university staff. Accessible U is Accessible Housing’s response to an information gap – – a tool aimed at placing helpful information in the hands of those who need it.

Find Accessible U online at www.accessibleuniversity.com.

About Accessible Housing

Accessible Housing is a Calgary not-for-profit organization that opens doors to homes that are accessible and affordable for people with limited mobility. Accessible Housing’s vision is that everyone has a home and belongs in community. For more information about Accessible Housing’s programs, services and clients, visit www.accessiblehousing.ca.

Edmonton & Clearwater County Residents Love their Headwaters

New poll highlights connection Edmonton has with Bighorn Wildland

Canmore, AB – A new poll being released today by the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y) highlights the strong relationship Metro Edmonton residents, and those living in Clearwater County, have with their headwaters.

The Bighorn is a region of mountains, foothills and boreal woodlands found on the eastern border of Banff and Jasper National Parks, west of Rocky Mountain House. “The North Saskatchewan River starts in Banff National Park,” says Stephen Legault, Y2Y Program Director for the Crown, Alberta and NWT, “but the Bighorn is where it gets almost all its water from. Bighorn water finds its way into every tap in the Capital Region. Taking care of those headwaters means clean water for all Edmonton and area residents.”

In a poll conducted in late September and early October for the conservation group, researcher eNRG found that 83% of Edmonton residents are in favour of protecting the Bighorn region. 77% said that where commercial use of public land like the Bighorn could have a negative impact on wildlife habitat or water that it should not be allowed. Furthermore, when asked how they would like to see the Bighorn area managed, 79% said that they would like to see sensitive wildlife habitat protected and for other areas to allow non-motorized recreation. Nearly 7 in 10 Metro Edmonton residents knew that their water came from the North Saskatchewan River.

“There is strong support for the protection of Edmonton’s water source,” says Legault. “People in the region feel very strongly that ensuring they have a clean, clear water is important, and favour protecting that water source for future generations.”

In the same poll, 88% of residents in Drayton Valley, Rocky Mountain House, Nordegg and rural Clearwater County favour protecting the environment of the region. 79% said that where commercial use of public land like the Bighorn could have a negative impact on wildlife habitat or water that it should not be allowed. 68% of residents of the region favour protecting the Bighorn as a wildland park.

“The Bighorn is the closest mountain region to Edmonton,” says Dr. Hilary Young, Y2Y Program Coordinator for Alberta. “Calgarians have Kananaskis Country, and a lot of that is protected for headwater conservation and recreation. Edmonton deserves the same opportunity. We believe that for Edmonton to be able to count on the Bighorn as a source for clean, clear water in the future, the region should be protected with a core wildland park and a series of provincial parks and public land use zones.”

“Most local residents and property owners strongly favour protection of the Bighorn” says Nordegg business owner and resident Marla Zapach. “Protecting the Bighorn will bring new economic opportunities. Creating parks is a form of economic stimulus and would encourage the development of more businesses in and for the community. This is something local residents support.”

The poll was conducted by Edmonton-based eNRG for the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. 400 residents of metro-Edmonton and 200 residents of rural areas east of Edmonton (in the North Saskatchewan watershed) were polled. The results are valid +/- 4.8%, 19 times of out 20 for the Edmonton sample and +/- 8% for the Clearwater County sample.

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For further comment, contact:

Stephen Legault, Y2Y Program Director – Crown, Alberta and NWT 403-688-2964 | stephen@y2y.net

Hilary Young, PhD., Y2Y Program Coordinator – Alberta 403-609-2666 ext 104 | hilary@y2y.net

Marla Zapach, Nordegg Resident 403-846-6627 | marla@skadiwilderness.ca

 

To learn more about how Y2Y is protecting Alberta Headwaters visit their website here.

 

New U of L study finds water issues a major concern of housing developers in the Calgary region

The final report of a study investigating challenges and solutions in acquiring water for housing development in the Calgary provides some insights into this critical issue.

Principal investigator, Dr. Lorraine Nicol of the University of Lethbridge issued the final report after analysing the findings from interviews with 15 major developers working in Rocky View County, M.D. Foothills and/or Okotoks. Challenges in acquiring water have housing developers in the Calgary region worried about the effects on their industry and real estate, on home buyers and the economy in general.

The study found:

  • 100% of developers interviewed believe there are challenges in acquiring licensed water allocations for housing development in the three municipalities under study;
  • 73% stated acquiring a licensed water allocation is the ‘primary issue’ for developers;
  • 60% of interviewees believe water management in the region is political, to the detriment of the housing industry;
  • another 53% believe the source of the problem also relates to government processes;
  • 87% of developers believe water challenges are having a negative effect on the industry, either now or in the future;
  • two-thirds of developers say the cost of acquiring water licenses increases the price of homes;
  • on average, approximately 200 homes sold yearly in the three municipalities under study comprised the resale of new homes. A 10% decline in houses constructed, by reducing the stock of homes, could translate in a decline of 20 houses hold; a 20% decline in new home construction could translate in a decline of 40 homes sold;

All developers believe a solution lies in working together as a region but there was no clear consensus on what type of regional model will work.

For more information about this study, visit the University of Lethbridge’s website here or Alberta WaterPortal’s Blog here.

New Tool Available to Assist with Community Energy Plan Implementation 

An open source guide, the Community Energy Implementation Framework, designed to help communities move Community Energy Plans from a vision to implementation, was released today in beta at QUEST2016 – Smart Energy Communities for Jobs, Infrastructure and Climate Action by the Community Energy Association, QUEST – Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow, and Sustainable Prosperity.

The Community Energy Implementation Framework contains 10 strategies that provide advice on political, staff and stakeholder engagement, staff and financial capacity and embedding energy into local government plans and processes.

“Across Canada, over 200 communities, representing more than 50 percent of the population, have a Community Energy Plan.” said Dale Littlejohn, Executive Director of the Community Energy Association, “Despite the acceleration of community energy planning across Canada, communities continue to face challenges when it comes to implementation, and this guide offers a tool to overcome many of those challenges.”

Laid out in an easy to use online format, the Framework also includes an Implementation Readiness Survey – a self-evaluation tool intended to help communities identify areas of strength and weakness for implementation.

“Canadian communities have an important role to play in energy. They influence nearly 60 percent of energy use and 50 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions nationally,” explains Brent Gilmour, Executive Director of QUEST. “The Community Energy Implementation Framework offers a solution to help communities do their part in helping Canada meet its GHG emission reduction targets.”

The GTI team welcomes you to share comments and questions about the beta version of the Framework to smarchionda@questcanada.org.

For more information: Access the Framework: http://www.framework.gettingtoimplementation.ca

About Community Energy Association (CEA)

CEA supports local governments in developing and implementing community energy and emissions plans (also known as climate action plans, community energy plans, and local action plans). We also help local governments with carbon neutral action plans for their operations.

About QUEST

QUEST is the leader advancing Smart Energy Communities that reduce GHG emissions, lower energy use, drive the adoption of clean technologies, and foster local economic development in Canada. Established in 2007, QUEST has a national grassroots network including over 10,000 contacts in organizations across Canada from local, provincial and territorial governments, utilities, energy service providers, building and land owners and operators, and clean technology companies working at the community level to advance Smart Energy Communities. Follow us: @QUESTCanada

About Sustainable Prosperity (SP)

SP is a national research and policy network, based at the University of Ottawa. SP focuses on market-based approaches to build a greener, more competitive economy. It brings together business, policy and academic leaders to help innovative ideas inform policy development. Follow us: @sustpro

For additional information:

QUEST

Tonja Leach, Director, Communications & National Affairs

Tel.: 613-627-2938 x706

E: tleach@questcanada.org

 

Community Energy Association

Dale Littlejohn , Executive Director

Tel.: 604-628-7076

E: dlittlejohn@communityenergy.bc.ca

Foundation seeks new Public Board Member

The Foundation is seeking a candidate to fill the position of Public Appointment on the Board of Governors.

As a Governor you will:

  • Participate in three meetings a year;
  • Contribute to the strategic direction of the Foundation;
  • Decide upon community investment grant funding;
  • Contribute to a dynamic learning board and organization;
  • Develop and grow your skills and provide leadership to projects in Alberta.

According to the Ministerial Regulations, the Foundation is seeking one person, who is not in the industry, who is appointed by the current members of the board then in office and who, in the opinion of those members, possesses special skills or experience to assist the board in carrying out the Foundation’s purposes.

Preference will be given to a candidate who brings the following:

  • Is energetic and willing to be an ambassador for the Foundation to network and create awareness among community and industry stakeholders.
  • Knowledge of Alberta, current issues and the ability to identify grant making and community investment opportunities.
  • Holds respect for diverging viewpoints and is willing to contribute their personal leadership skills towards creating efficient and effective governance.
  • An appetite for learning and able to set appropriate ends and monitor the achievement of those ends.
  • An independent thinker who bases their decision making on analysis of available information and their own experiences.
  • Experience with financial management and investment responsibilities – current assets of the Foundation are around $15 million.

For more information, please view the complete description here or contact the Executive Director, Cheryl De Paoli, at 403.228.4786 or cdepaoli@aref.ab.ca (Indicate in the subject line: Board Public Appointment).

All applications are due by October 31st, 2016.

September 2016 Community Investment

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation approved $239,500 in community investment projects at their recent meeting.

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) supports initiatives that enhance the real estate industry and benefit the communities of Alberta. AREF was set up in 1991 under the Alberta Real Estate Act. Since then, it has awarded approximately 17 million dollars in community and industry grants to over 550 projects across Alberta. AREF is currently celebrating its 25th Anniversary of making a difference in Alberta.

Projects approved at the September meeting include:

Alberta Real Estate AssociationDefining Professional Excellence through Research and Engagement

AREA would like to improve the Alberta real estate industry’s understanding of true professional excellence, defining it with statistically relevant, benchmark Alberta consumer research, as well as member and key stakeholder input. Using these publicly released research results, AREA will develop applicable and measurable Standards of Professional Excellence for the Industry.

Alberta Real Estate Foundation Community and Real Estate Industry Sponsorship 2016-2017

The Foundation utilises the Community and Real Estate Industry Sponsorship program to provide sponsorships and small community grants to those events and projects that require a timely decision. The purpose of providing sponsorships is to offer limited support to organizations and their events that meet the funding criteria of the Foundation. The fund reduces administrative demands by allowing staff to award small grants without seeking Board approval.

 Alberta WaterPortal Society The Future of Water: Engaging Albertans in the Water-Food-Energy Nexus

Alberta is projected to add 1.8 million residents by 2040. Over the same time period, climate change may lead to a reduction in available water resources. In this context, an understanding of the converging demands for water from communities, as well as the energy and food production sectors is critical. Ultimately, this project will engage stakeholders to encourage consideration of the water-food-energy nexus and support more holistic water management decision making.

Camrose Open Door Association Tenant Education and Certification Pilot Project

This pilot project will provide hard to house tenants with the knowledge, tools and support that they need in order to be successful renters. The project will incorporate development of workshop curriculum, education sessions, appropriate community referrals, security deposit assistance and ongoing support to assist the tenant in stabilizing their housing situation.

Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society Community Engagement 25

2017 is the Friends of Fish Creek Provincial Park Society’s 25th anniversary year. As such, the Society will be highlighting their achievements over the past 25 years and providing new and exciting ways to get involved in the Fish Creek Park community. By leveraging skilled staff and volunteers to provide outreach activities, hands on stewardship, engagement activities and social enterprise, a core of informed park users will be supported by a stable non-profit society. This project will enable the Society to continue to improve the quality of life for Calgary families and support local real estate values far into the future.

FuseSocial – Building Community Resilience Together

After the devastating wildfires, Wood Buffalo (WB) has the opportunity to implement a process to build a more resilient community. This requires a community engagement process, to ensure ownership by the community. This project aims to utilizing a strategic, comprehensive and innovative approach/tool – The WB Strategy Roadmap – to better understand the challenges facing the community and identify priority areas for the community’s recovery effort.

Hearts & Hammers SocietyHearts and Hammers, Affordable and Accessible Home Renovations

Hearts and Hammers offers free home renovations to Calgarians with mobility challenges. For the past 4 years, the organization has been run by volunteers, and has been able to complete up to 5 renovations a year.  As the organization experiences more demand, full-time staff are needed to ensure sustainability and strategic growth.  Bringing on more staff capacity would allow H&H to continue providing home renovations for Calgarians with reduced mobility, while also enhancing their social support.

LifehouseAlive Inside: A Full Body Experience

Alive Inside, is a full body experience that allows participants the opportunity to explore the limitations of aging. This educational workshop will expose Realtors and other influential community members to a reality which will help them deeply understand how environment impacts mobility, behaviour, health and healing. Awareness will encourage the development of environments that are accessible to everyone, including aging populations and those with disabilities. This immersive experience will inform and empower REALTORS® and other influential community members so they can help to further educate and support aging in place.

Stewards of the Lac la Biche WatershedLac la Biche Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping

Living Lakes Canada and the Stewards of the Lac la Biche Watershed, and with support from Lac La Biche County, are conducting a Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping Project for Lac la Biche. Sensitive Habitat Inventory Mapping was developed by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as a method to conduct fish and wildlife habitat assessments of freshwater lakes. The information collected includes land use, riparian habitat alterations and existing sensitive fish and wildlife habitats on both public and private land. The resulting Shoreline Management Guidelines direct shoreline activities in a manner that will protect, conserve and restore important fish and wildlife habitats and the water they depend on. The Guidelines have proven invaluable for local and provincial government to make sustainable land use decisions along our lake shorelines.

Sustainability Resources Ltd.Rural Prosperity Initiative

The Rural Prosperity Initiative is a collaborative programmatic approach to showcasing and implementing sustainability solutions in Alberta’s communities. The Rural Prosperity Initiative is a collaboration between industry, local and provincial governments, non-government organizations and institutions to help communities identify opportunities for waste reduction and repurposing, water reuse, and clean and renewable energy infrastructure upgrades that can save money, attract industry and reduce carbon and GHG.