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What do rural landowners need to know about inactive and orphaned wells?

Pembina Institute’s latest primer on oil and gas liabilities in Alberta

By Nikki Way and Morrigan Simpson-Marran

Increasingly, Albertans have heard about the number of oil and gas wells that sit inactive, neglected, or potentially orphaned in this province. Inactive and orphaned well numbers are growing in parallel with a prolonged energy recession in Alberta since 2014. Often this issue is discussed in an abstract way, mainly focusing on the financial implications for the province or referencing liabilities that companies do not have the funds to properly care for, which raises questions about whether some of these wells will be cleaned up at all.

At the end of the day, rural landowners are the ones who have this infrastructure on their land and have to live with these uncertainties. With support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, the Pembina Institute has published the Landowner’s primer: what you need to know about unreclaimed oil and gas wells to help those who are most impacted. Designed as a complementary follow up to our 2016 publication, the Landowners’ Guide to Oil and Gas Development , this primer addresses questions and examines problems landowners face when dealing with operators who are under financial strain and still have unreclaimed oil and gas infrastructure on landowners’ property.

Since the price downturn of 2014, multitudes of oil and gas companies that had accrued significant clean-up costs in Alberta have declared bankruptcy, in some cases leaving their infrastructure under the care of the Orphan Well Association. Many of the names of bankrupt operators have been in the news recently, such as Sequoia Resources, Lexin Resources, Trident Exploration, and Redwater Energy.

Although these are some of the high profile examples of operators who reneged on their responsibility to clean up hundreds – and in some cases, thousands – of wells, there are many other lesser known instances in which landowners are left with few answers for what might happen, or even who they could seek out to get questions answered. Currently in Alberta there are 90,000 inactive wells and 3,406 orphan wells that are up for abandonment (also known as decommissioning), while another 2,772 orphan sites need to be reclaimed.

Frequently, when wells are orphaned, sold off in bankruptcy, or even neglected and left inactive by companies that are financially struggling, landowners are left without an explanation of how to proceed and what their rights are. They may struggle to navigate the process of insolvency, or to understand the role of the operator or the regulator through this process.

The Pembina Institute’s Landowner’s primer outlines what a typical reclamation process should look like, and what issues may arise if the reclamation process does not go as planned. It explains what may happen if the operator on your land declares bankruptcy, and who might take over the responsibility of the well next. It offers guidance on issues such as missed lease payments and who to contact in case of a leak from the well. It also offers advice on how to navigate an untended well site. Should more questions remain, the guide has a list of contacts for landowners in order to get the help they need.

Without legislative changes that can ensure the timely reclamation of oil and gas infrastructure before companies reach their financial limits, many landowners will continue to experience this problem. It is important that as many landowners as possible have resources to navigate this situation.

Whether you are a real estate professional, an organization that works with landowners, or if you have an oil or gas well on your property, this primer is for you. You can download a copy of the Landowner’s primer: what you need to know about unreclaimed oil and gas wells. In addition, you can order a printed copy of the Landowners’ Guide to Oil and Gas Development for the cost of shipping.

Download your copy of the Landowner’s primer. 

About the Pembina Institute
The Pembina Institute is a non-profit think-tank that advocates for strong, effective policies to support Canada’s clean energy transition. We have offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Toronto. Learn more: www.pembina.org

Foundation introduces Chair Tash Taylor

Tash Taylor, of St. Albert, Alberta, has been appointed the sixteenth Chair of the Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, effective November 1, 2019. She has served on the Board of Governors since 2016 as a public member appointment.

Tash believes the Foundation plays an important role in strengthening the real estate industry to the benefit of Alberta communities and consumers. “I’m a people-person by nature and intuitively want to collaborate,” she says. “I look forward to working with our real estate stakeholders and partners who are key in AREF’s ability to achieve our strategic goals.”

Her priority as Chair will be strengthening relationships and broadening the Foundation’s reach to help more communities through AREF’s community investment program. “With the current economic picture in Alberta, AREF is in a prime position to act as a catalyst in building capacity and assisting organizations in unique ways other funders may not be able to.” Tash says.

And beyond the Foundation’s community investment program, Tash intends to explore more formal impact investing opportunities, where funds are invested to generate a measurable social or environmental impact alongside a financial return. “Along with other Foundations, AREF has been a positive Alberta example with impact investing, and I want this continue.” she says.

Her active career spans multiple sectors including working in Canada’s largest school divisions, and serving in senior positions in the post-secondary sector, the St. Albert Housing Society, Alzheimer’s Society of Alberta and NWT, Imperial Oil, and Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. Tash established Alberta’s first association for non-profit housing providers as well as Alberta’s YouthVOLUNTEER! Society, a charity dedicated to building youth volunteerism in collaboration with the provincial government.  In 2016, her work in advancing affordable housing led to an invitation to join the Official Canadian Delegation at the UN Summit for Community Sustainability in Ecuador.

Currently Tash is a management consultant with the Alberta School Boards Association, where she provides a range of governance services to school divisions across the province.  “My 20-year career in the public and non-profit sector helps me understand the needs of the sector and gives me useful insight into how AREF can best add value from socio-economic and environmental perspectives.”

Notably, Tash is the first female Chair in 20 years – since Janet Willson in 1999. “As the first female Chair of the Foundation in two decades, I am evidence of AREF’s positive progress from a traditional governance structure.   Board diversity is something we must work at together, and I am honoured to be serving as leader among an amazing group of equals.”

Tash will serve a two-year term as Chair of the Board. Her extensive leadership experience and insight on community building will bring much value to the Foundation.

Real estate, research and radon: Course aimed at keeping Albertans safe wins International award

For immediate release: The Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA) has won an international award for its course educating Alberta real estate professionals about radon in homes—an odourless, radioactive and dangerous gas that occurs naturally in our homes when radium in soil and rock breaks down.

In a unique collaboration for the real estate industry, RECA worked with leading radon researcher Aaron Goodarzi, PhD, with the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine (CSM). Together they developed a module and test about the presence and detection of radon in homes in Alberta for RECA’s 2019 Re-licensing Education Program. The course received the coveted 2019 ARELLO® Education Award recognizing outstanding systems and programs that contribute to the real estate industry, promote public protection and can be adapted across North America and beyond.

“Real estate professionals’ obligation to discuss radon with buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants means that every single Albertan buying, selling, or leasing properties will become aware of the dangers of radon, how to take it into consideration in a purchase decision and how test and mitigate radon ,” says Joseph Fernandez, Director of Education Programs at RECA. “Data provided by Dr. Goodarzi was timely.”

RECA worked closely with researchers at the University of Calgary to develop the course.  The researchers have found one in six Western Canadian homes exceed Health Canada’s acceptable radon levels. The researchers launched Evict Radon, an awareness campaign partly funded by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF), that encourages people to test their homes for the gas while also gathering data for medical research.

“We were delighted that RECA had the foresight to engage with our team to build their course using scientific, peer-reviewed, and Canadian context information on the science of radon,” says Goodarzi, Canada Research Chair for Radiation Exposure Disease and member of the Arnie Charbonneau Cancer Institute at the CSM. “This has enabled them to offer the Real Estate community of Alberta a gold-standard in education on this topic that is, to my knowledge, unmatched in Canada.”

Radon, a known carcinogen, is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after smoking. Scientists estimate that one Albertan per day is diagnosed with lung cancer caused by radon.  “We are happy to support Evict Radon,” says Jim Saunders, the chair of AREF’s Board of Governors.  “And we are very pleased that by educating real estate professionals, the Evict Radon project is able to reach a broader audience and help educate more Albertans on how to ensure their home is healthy.”

About RECA:

RECA is an independent governing authority that sets, regulates and enforces standards for real estate brokerage, mortgage brokerage, property management and real estate appraisal professionals across Alberta.

About Evict Radon:

Evict Radon is a non-profit organization dedicated to solving Canada’s substantial and worsening radon-gas exposure problem through interdisciplinary research and educating Canadians about the harmful effects of radon gas.

About AREF:

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation invests in real estate policy, research, practices, and education that strengthen Alberta’s communities.

For more information contact Bryan Douey, RECA Communications and Connections Manager, at 403-228-2954 or bdouey@reca.ca

Farmer’s Podcast out of Rural Alberta Gives a Voice to Agricultural and Climate Issues.

It is hard to imagine Rural Routes to Climate Solutions (RRCS) without the podcast. With the podcast, we’ve taken conversations that would normally take place between agricultural producers over coffee and given them some structure, permanence, and a wider audience. Discussing land management and environmental stewardship issues is not new to agriculture, but how often are those conversations captured, especially in Alberta? How often can a producer revisit that conversation again and again? That is the beauty of the podcast: with its conversational tone and ‘talking from the front porch’ vibe, it acts as a storage house for those conversations on land management and stewardship. Unlike the coffee shop conversation though, the podcast is a resource that can be revisited at any time and shared with producers anywhere in the province (from the feedback we’ve received from listeners, our reach goes as far as the Maritimes).

The people doing the talking about land and environmental issues are distinctly different than the ones you’d have involved in a coffee shop conversation in rural Alberta. It is a question of access. We have featured some of Alberta’s rising stars in sustainable agriculture like Daniel Chappell and Jerremie Clyde of Little Loaves Farm in Sundre, and we have also been able to bring in heavy hitters like California-based writer, lawyer and rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman and Alberta Innovates economist Marian Weber. These ‘heavy hitters’—experts from academia or industry—are individuals that producers don’t have easy access to, but are individuals with knowledge that helps producers land management and environmental stewardship practices. An one-hour podcast episode with a Niman or a Weber, hand crafted by us to highlight the parts of their presentations relevant to producers, gives producers access to these experts and their knowledge unlike anything you can find right now.

It is this lens, this highlighting the parts relevant to producers, that is one of the keys to our success. The overall Rural Routes to Climate Solutions project is led by the idea that farm solutions are climate solutions as well. In fact, at the end of every podcast episode our host reminds our listeners “what is good for farm is usually good for the climate.” Our approach with a contentious, and at times depressing, issue like climate change is to talk about all the good, useful, and practical outcomes of implementing climate solutions in agriculture. We are dealing with a community of ‘doers’ in agricultural producers. By giving them a tool and explaining how to use it via our podcast, it gives our episodes extra appeal. We hear it time and time again from producers that follow our project closely that they like the fact we are talking about what can be done and not dwelling on the problem alone.

Catch up on all the episodes of Rural Routes to Climate Solutions’ podcast here.

September 2019 Community Investment

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation approved $275,000 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 established in 1991 under the Alberta Real Estate Act. Since then, it has awarded 20+ million dollars in community and industry grants to over 620 projects across Alberta.

Projects approved at the September meeting include:

Alberta Real Estate FoundationSmall Grants and Sponsorship 2019-2020

The purpose of the small grants and sponsorship fund is to enhance the Foundation’s profile and strengthen its connection to the real estate industry through support of appropriate community and industry events.

Bricolage CalgaryPedesting App Communications Strategy

Bricolage Calgary’s mission is to build a truly accessible and inclusive world for all and will soon be releasing Pedesting, a way-finding app created for all pedestrians to navigate both outdoor and indoor spaces. Bricolage is currently completing the ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (MVP) of the app. Upon its release, Bricolage will begin development of a communications strategy. The primary goal of this next step is to find as many ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’ who are receptive to Bricolage Calgary’s vision and wish to engage in the next stage of product development.

Canada West FoundationThe new Clean Fuel Standard – what will it mean for Alberta’s building industry?

The federal government has released details on the Clean Fuel Standard (CFS), a regulation that will require all fossil fuel suppliers to reduce the carbon content of fuel or purchase offset credits as of 2022. The CFS applies not only to transportation fuels (as has been done in BC and California) but also – in a global first – to fuels used in industry and in buildings. This project will analyse what the new regulation means for the building sector, industry, consumers and residents, in terms of both cost and complications.

Federation of Calgary CommunitiesThe Guide to the Planning Process: Next Generation Planning

This City of Calgary is currently undertaking extensive policy reviews shifting how Calgary will grow and change in the future. By the end of 2020, most of the statutory planning documents will undergo review -incorporating new policies, processes and terminology! One of the most unique and valued aspects of the planning process in Calgary is the involvement of affected residents and their respective community associations in providing community feedback around context and character. To capture the extensive changes, and as a leader in supporting resident engagement and education, the Federation, working with industry and the City of Calgary, will complete a rewrite of the popular “Guide to the Planning Process” (and develop additional supportive tools) to assist residents, community associations, other non-profits and University of Calgary students as they learn to navigate the new planning processes in Calgary.

Habitat for Humanity Edmonton SocietyCold Lake Build

This project will support the Habitat for Humanity single-family home build in the community of Cold Lake. Cold Lake is one of Alberta’s communities that was hit hard by the recent economic downturn. The lack of affordable housing is a consistent obstacle to a family’s ability to raise their children in Cold Lake. Habitat for Humanity currently has 24 units in Cold Lake and continues to be the only local organization to offer affordable home ownership opportunities in the community and the province.

University of Calgary, School of Architecture, Planning and LandscapeCalgary Project 2.0

THE CALGARY PROJECT: urban form / urban life, was a national award-winning book published in 2006 by the University of Calgary Press. It is a richly-illustrated examination of urban development in Calgary up to 2005. Widely consulted and used by urban professionals, academics and students, it soon sold out its initial run of 1,000 copies and has not been updated. The goal of The Calgary Project 2.0 is to revise the 2006 book and update it so that it captures and reflects the past 14 years of Calgary’s development, in order to provide a resource to help guide the city into the next decades of the 21st century. The Calgary Project 2.0 will focus on the most recent chapter of the city’s history and discuss projections for its growth and development. It will add to the discussion about Calgary’s future and its urban quality, in order to aid citizens, developers, realtors, planners and design professionals, academics and policy makers in articulating a vision of the desirable future of the city.

June 2019 Community Investment

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation approved $374,000 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 established in 1991 under the Alberta Real Estate Act. Since then, it has awarded over 20 million dollars in community and industry grants to 615 projects across Alberta.

Projects approved at the June meeting include:

Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) CanadaCollaborating with our rural municipal partners in Alberta to enhance the value and resiliency of the ALUS model

ALUS Canada will collect, synthesize, and articulate the current and potential value proposition of the ALUS program in Alberta to streamline program delivery and achieve more environmental restoration and conservation. This project will strengthen the coordination within ALUS and evaluate its programs by working with partner municipalities, analyse their program success and failures and use the information to better the project delivery to better respond to the growing interest in ALUS in Alberta. This work will clearly show how ALUS helps build more resilient communities by maximizing the value of marginal land on agricultural operations that are then better able to mitigate risk of extreme weather events.

Agroforestry & Woodlot Extension SocietyEnhancing Rural Property Values through Extension/Education

The project will educate and assist rural landowners in improved management of their forested lands. The project will assist the real estate industry in understanding and promoting increased property values through improved management of rural forested lands by current and future owners resulting in increasing property values of rural lands.

Capital Region HousingIncreasing Successful Tenancies: RentSmart in Alberta

Capital Region Housing is the Alberta provincial provider of RentSmart and would like to increase awareness and success of RentSmart across Alberta. This project looks to increase housing affordability in Alberta through an increased awareness and acceptance of the RentSmart tenancy education program.

Jack Long FoundationMarket / Non-Profit Partnerships for Affordable Age-In-Place Housing

The Jack Long Foundation proposes to develop a template for affordable age-in-place housing via market/affordable housing partnerships using East Village (EV) as a demonstration community. EV was chosen because of its high concentration of low income seniors, and accelerated new and re-purposed development. The project will engage relevant stakeholders who can help to resolve barriers to working partnerships between the Market and Non-Profit sectors and ultimately to increase affordable housing by integrating it with market housing projects.

Olds College, Centre for Innovation Remediation of Water from Livestock Feeding Operations, Farmlands, and Residential Areas Using Native Wetland Plants and Associated Technology

Contamination of water is a critical problem within Agriculture and Urban areas across Alberta and western Canada from nutrient loading. Although past research has proven that wetland plants are effective in capturing nutrients to effectively clean water while harvesting off the vegetation for other productive uses such as compost for soil remediation, there is a lack of critical information to successfully carry out water remediation using native wetland plants. This knowledge gap is related to the quantification and proof of concept of the hyperaccumulation capabilities of each of the various native wetland plant species and the specific nutrients for which each plant species is most effective. Phase 1 of this project provided the quantification data relating to the hyperaccumulation properties of native wetland plants. Phase 2 will confirm the actual performance of native wetland plants and provide proof of concept by: (1) using plant data and proven floating island technology acquired from Phase 1, and (2) subjecting the plants to feedlot runoff water to prove their efficiencies and capabilities in remediating the runoff water from livestock feedlots so that the water can safely be reused for irrigation and livestock drinking water.

Red Deer River Watershed AllianceUsing Science and Storytelling to Spur Watershed Action

This project is about stories, science, and using creative communications to inspire people in central Alberta to protect watershed health. The project will engage people in central Alberta to hear their real-world water and land-based stories, complement these stories with a suite of science based messages, and ultimately develop a “Story of the Red Deer River watershed” to be shared widely using creative communications and digital media. Imagine National Geographic meets Central Alberta – it will harness the power of stories and compelling visuals to raise awareness and encourage action around key water and land-use issues.

University of Calgary, Cumming School of MedicinePerceptions of neighbourhood walkability, bike-ability, livability, health, and vibrancy among residential real estate professionals, home buyers, and developers.

During the past few decades, there has been increased research, practice and political interest in creating healthy, vibrant neighbourhoods. Despite interest from a broad range of stakeholders on this topic, the perspectives of real estate and community development professionals are often not represented. Using a qualitative research approach, the project will explore, compare, and contrast perceptions of “walkability”, “bike-ability”, “vibrancy”, “livability”, and “healthy” as they relate to neighbourhood design among urban residential Real Estate Professionals, current homebuyers, and developers. This project looks to develop a standardized language to describe these concepts in order to enhance communications, expectations and public satisfaction around quality of life lived in urban settings.

Septic Sense: Solutions for Rural Living

The Septic Sense program continues in Alberta! Read on to learn how this program is helping to protect the environment by raising awareness with rural landowners about the proper management and maintenance of private septic systems.

Septic systems may not be a great dinner party conversation, however, knowing how to manage and maintain your private sewage system is an important aspect of sustainable rural living. Educating yourself about how to properly care for your septic system preserves your property values and ultimately, ensures harmful substances don’t infiltrate Alberta’s groundwater or water-bodies.

The last Alberta census shows that rural residential landowners represent 14% of Alberta’s population, and many of those rural residents have private septic systems. According to Alberta Municipal Affairs, every day the average person contributes 340 litres of sewage through a private sewage system (septic system). For a family of four living in a two-bedroom house, that amounts to 1,360 litres per day and just under half a million litres per year!

Owners of private sewage systems are responsible for ensuring their systems operate properly and safely. The decisions of those property owners about how to manage and maintain their septic systems have the potential to have a significant cumulative effect on the Alberta landscape. Historically, there have been limited resources and support directed specifically to educating property owners on how to manage these important systems.

In response to this need, since 2015, Land Stewardship Centre, in cooperation with the Alberta Onsite Wastewater Management Association (AOWMA), has been delivering the Septic Sense program. The Septic Sense workshop is a comprehensive information session, supported with take-home resources, that enhances local accountability for water resource management through education and engagement with landowners who have private wastewater systems on their property.

Public education is an important component of a successful wastewater industry, and we are pleased to be a part of the process,” says Lesley Desjardins, Executive Director at AOWMA.

The highly successful workshop series has been offered in over 40 different municipalities across Alberta, reaching almost 2,000 people and has helped to raise awareness of responsible stewardship practices to realtors and landowners, alike.

Jeff Porter, Agricultural Fieldman with MD of Foothills has said there has been a lot of interest in the workshops from residents, because septic systems remain a mystery to many people who live on farms and acreages.

With funding and support from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF), in 2018, LSC and AOWMA hosted 30 free workshops for landowners and Realtors in Alberta to better understand how to manage their rural property and mitigate negative impacts on the landscape from improperly managed septic systems. This support from AREF was crucial to delivering the workshops this year. LSC and AOWMA are very grateful to AREF for their support, and for seeing value in this educational initiative which has provided important information and resources to rural landowners, Realtors and municipalities across Alberta.

Now, with a couple of years of successful workshops complete, and a positive reputation in the community, Septic Sense has evolved and will now be offered on a cost-recovery (fee-for service) basis that will allow AOWMA to sustain the program in the future. Going forward, AOWMA will continue raising awareness of best management practices to many more Realtors and Albertans, to create sustainable communities and foster a healthy environment. Please contact AOWMA directly if your organization or municipality is interested in hosting a Septic Sense workshop.

 

Lesley Desjardins, Executive Director of AOWMA, giving a Septic Sense presentation in Leduc County. (photo from the PipeStone Flyer)

 

Everyone needs space: SpaceFinder Alberta

Everyone needs space, whether it’s to hold an event, to create, to teach, or simply somewhere to meet, but how do you find the space you need? One word: SpaceFinder.

SpaceFinder Alberta links organizations with space to rent to those who need space. This helps a variety of organizations and venues efficiently find suitable users for their under-used space, and those who are looking for short-term rentals, through this free-to-list, free-to-search online tool.

SpaceFinder Alberta works as a multifaceted tool, offering a free marketing platform that assists venues and space owners find the right renters for their space, meanwhile tracking for when and what purpose a space is being used. SpaceFinder Alberta also acts as a database, it gathers data and generates reports though Fractured Atlas. SpaceFinder contains information of both existing and desired spaces, and it encompasses relevant policies, and provides information pertaining to which organizations are operating in a given community.

SpaceFinder helps minimize the time spent fielding calls and emails about features and specifications of a space, but does not change any current booking systems that are in place for the venue. Whether the booking method is a link to the rental form, an email address, or merely a phone number to contact the booking representative, nothing changes with a listing on SpaceFinder.

SpaceFinder Alberta makes finding space an easy and efficient task that anyone can do, while delivering the specific requirements that the owners, and organizations request. As a result, SpaceFinder delivers real financial impacts to our communities through increased revenues for organizations from the streamlined rental processes, and increased stimulation of under-used spaces. Communities themselves thrive when their members are able to live, create, and celebrate within their own neighborhood, alongside their neighbors.

List your space, or find a space for your next event at https://alberta.spacefinder.org/

 

WellWiki.org: Keeping track of all Alberta’s oil and gas wells

Oil and gas wells have been drilled across Alberta for decades. While the Alberta Energy Regulator keeps track of all the wells and what company is drilling for what, the where question hasn’t been easy for an ordinary Albertan, or someone thinking of buying a property, to inquire about any wells that may be nearby. Until now.

Joel Gehman, a professor in the School of Business at the University of Alberta, has built WellWiki.org, a website loaded with information about each of the roughly 600,000 oil and gas wells that dot the landscape of Alberta. “These wells could be operating, and actively producing. Or they could be in some stage of inactivity or even just in the early stages where they’re just being licensed and drilled,” says Gehman. “Every well has a biography. The website is trying to tell the story of each individual well and provide the full chronology of what’s happened there.”

Gehman first started collecting data about wells back in 2013 as part of his research into how corporations respond to concerns around sustainability. Recently, with $35,000 of funding from AREF, Gehman hired a project manager and two software engineering students to help him expand the site and add thousands of pages of information. The new data of Alberta oil and gas wells went live in December, 2018. “The goal for the project is to simply make it easier for the average citizen to learn information about oil and gas activity that’s happening in their community, neighborhood or backyard,” says Gehman.

If you see a well somewhere, all you have to do is make note of the company name and well identification number on the signage at the well pad, and use that information to find the well on the website.  Information about that particular well will pop up—when they started and finished drilling, a map, the depth of the well, and license number.  When you search by company name, you also see all the other wells it operates.  You can also search by location.

“Resources like WellWiki allow folks on both sides of a real estate transaction to understand what’s happening on the land,” says Gehman. “There are many things involved in a real estate transaction, this isn’t necessarily going to be the biggest one, but it’s an important piece of awareness to have.” In some cases, when the well was drilled it was in the middle of a farmer’s field, but new neighborhoods are moving into the area. “That’s not the well’s fault,” he says. “That’s the urban sprawl. But nonetheless, as that happens, the people moving into those neighborhoods may want to be aware of what’s happening in adjacent parcels of land.”

The original website was getting about 10,000 visits a year—including from people working at oil and gas companies. The new and improved WellWiki.org will likely see more visitors from outside the energy industry. “The target user for this website is anyone who has an interest in oil and gas activity in their community.”

For more information, please visit WellWiki

 

CPLEA: Albertan Condo Law

Overview of the Laws for Landlords and Tenants website

The Laws for Landlords and Tenants website (www.landlordandtenant.org) provides plain language information on residential tenancies law for landlords, tenants and service providers in Alberta. With up-to-date information and over 50 free publications and resources, the website attracts over 631,000 visits per year, reaching 1 in 6 Albertans!

The Laws for Landlords and Tenants website is part of the Residential Tenancies Legal Information Program (RTLIP) at the Legal Resource Centre of Alberta Ltd. (operating as the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta “CPLEA”). RTLIP consists of a number of other activities such as:

  • Developing new information and resources on emerging residential tenancies issues
  • Providing information and referral services
  • Conducting community outreach
  • Delivering presentations on renting law
  • Contributing to law and policy development on residential tenancies issues

CPLEA is a non-profit organization that provides legal information, education, training, research and consulting services. CPLEA has many programs, projects and resources, including 13 different websites and over 150 publications, on a wide variety of justice and legal issues. For more information about CPLEA’s other programs and projects, please visit www.cplea.ca.

Funding for the Residential Tenancies Legal Information Program is generously provided by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

Overview of the Condo Law for Albertans website

Launched in 2016, the Condo Law for Albertans website (www.condolawalberta.ca) provides plain language information on condominium law for condo buyers, owners and board members in Alberta. With up-to-date information and over 21 free publications and resources, the website attracts over 75,000 visits (and growing!) per year.

The Condo Law for Albertans website is part of the Condo Law for Albertans Project at the Legal Resource Centre of Alberta Ltd. (operating as the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta “CPLEA”). CPLEA is a non-profit organization that provides legal information, education, training, research and consulting services. CPLEA has many programs, projects and resources, including 13 different websites and over 150 publications, on a wide variety of justice and legal issues. For more information about CPLEA’s other programs and projects, please visit www.cplea.ca.

Funding for the Condo Law for Albertans Project is generously provided by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

Using the Canadian Rental Housing Index to inform community-based planning

The Canadian Rental Housing Index has contributed to a diverse range of planning, policy, and advocacy materials. These materials are all being used to shape affordable housing policy in different ways so that the needs of renters are being taken into account.

While there are many examples of where the Index is being used, one excellent example of its impact is the Community Developer’s Toolkit by an organization called New Commons Development. The organization is a non-profit real estate development company that works with the community housing sector to develop new affordable housing assets. Recognizing the need for the non-profit sector to play a greater role in developing a range of affordable housing options for low- and middle-income groups, the Toolkit provides critical information for affordable housing stakeholders to consider when acquiring, redeveloping, and developing affordable housing sites. The Toolkit is informed by the principle that affordable housing should be a community-based asset, and remain affordable in perpetuity.

The free online Toolkit walks users through the steps needed to consider when undertaking an affordable housing project, which include using CRHI data to inform a need and demand study, understanding the categories of need in a community, and developing the financial planning to execute the project. The Toolkit is a success because it will be used to inform the development and preservation of community-based assets in urban land markets where affordable housing is increasingly difficult to locate. Resources such as this guide are important because they are focused specifically on the community housing sector and provide important information for non-technical audiences to move projects forward.

This informs a larger philosophical question about the role of the non-profit sector in affordable housing provision. Historically, non-profit housing has been seen as only an option for low-income income households who cannot and do not have their needs met by the private market. There is a shifting understanding that the non-profit sector can be involved in providing housing for middle-income groups as well. By removing the profit motive from housing, we can treat it as a community asset that will remain affordable in perpetuity. This is a shift in thinking from seeing housing as a private investment for individual gain. Rather the toolkit positions the non-profit housing sector as a solution to the housing crisis, and in using Index data, it directly informs the impact BCNPHA and community housing sector would like to see.

Visit the Canadian Rental Housing Index here.

Overview of the Laws for Landlords and Tenants in Alberta website

The Laws for Landlords and Tenants website (www.landlordandtenant.org) provides plain language information on residential tenancies law for landlords, tenants and service providers in Alberta. With up-to-date information and over 50 free publications and resources, the website attracts over 631,000 visits per year, reaching 1 in 6 Albertans!

The Laws for Landlords and Tenants website is part of the Residential Tenancies Legal Information Program (RTLIP) at the Legal Resource Centre of Alberta Ltd. (operating as the Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta “CPLEA”). RTLIP consists of a number of other activities such as:

• Developing new information and resources on emerging residential tenancies issues
• Providing information and referral services
• Conducting community outreach
• Delivering presentations on renting law
• Contributing to law and policy development on residential tenancies issues

CPLEA is a non-profit organization that provides legal information, education, training, research and consulting services. CPLEA has many programs, projects and resources, including 13 different websites and over 150 publications, on a wide variety of justice and legal issues. For more information about CPLEA’s other programs and projects, please visit https://www.cplea.ca/

For direct information on the Landlord and Tenant Laws please visit https://www.landlordandtenant.org/

Funding for the Residential Tenancies Legal Information Program is generously provided by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

A Clean Energy Program is on the Horizon for Albertans. Will it Work?

For Immediate Release, Calgary – A 2018 survey reported that 68 per cent of Albertans believe the provincial economy would benefit by transitioning to lower carbon energy sources. The Property Assessed Clean Energy program (PACE) has worked in several jurisdictions in the U.S. as well as Canada and with newly enacted legislation, Alberta is poised to implement its own PACE program.

PACE can help Albertans by providing financing for clean energy upgrades to their properties. The funding would take the form of a loan repaid through an annual amount added to their property taxes.

The School of Public Policy with author Mukesh Khanal released a report that examines PACE and experiences with similar programs in both the U.S. and Canada. The report also offers a solid framework for creating an Alberta model.

According to Khanal, “Alberta is in an ideal position to develop regulations that address the program’s main issues.

Still at square one with newly enacted legislation, the Alberta government must address such issues as the size of PACE loans, eligibility requirements for property owners, what types of environmental upgrades will be permitted and even the interest rate on loans funding the program.

The mayors of Calgary and Edmonton along with officials of smaller Alberta municipalities have expressed their enthusiasm for a provincial PACE program. However, Alberta will face a number of unique challenges first. The downturn in the provincial economy, combined with the decline in household income, the highest personal debt levels in Canada and the highest unemployment rate in the country, may make Albertans averse to taking on more personal financial obligations. Finding trustworthy contractors, getting estimates and researching the products available for the desired upgrades can also add up to an exhaustive effort that could deter busy homeowners.”

Clarity around the terms of the PACE lien will be a key factor for the program’s success in Alberta, as the lien has proven problematic elsewhere. The lien is supposed to be attached to the property and not the owner, but the U.S. has seen numerous instances in which buyers insisted the PACE lien be paid off before the sale closed or demanded that the seller lower the asking price to account for the loan’s outstanding balance.

The Alberta government will need to find a way forward that combines best practices from other jurisdictions with a regulatory framework that addresses PACE’s shortcomings. The research offered in the report is a starting point from which the Alberta government can fashion a strong and equitable PACE program that would be a model for other jurisdictions.

The paper can be downloaded on from The School of Public Policy’s website.

Media contact:
Morten Paulsen
morten.paulsen2@ucalgary.ca
403.220.2540

Land Access Strategies for New Farmers in Alberta

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

Statistics Canada reports that only 8 per cent of farmers across the country have a succession plan. Meanwhile they’re getting closer to retirement. The average age of producers in Alberta is 57 and fewer of their children want to take over the family farm.

“Seventy-five per cent of farmers say they will sell their land in the next 10 years. That’s a huge transfer of land,” says Dana Penrice, prairie program manager at Young Agrarians. “At the same time we’re seeing a trend of new farmers coming from non-farming backgrounds.

They’re first generation farmers and they’re looking for land.” AREF is supporting the Young Agrarians’ Organic Alberta project which will research, consult and survey new farmers, older farmers as well as land experts to better understand the upcoming land transfer in Alberta.

The project will host workshops on intergenerational communication, succession planning and other topics regarding land transfer. They’re branding the initiative: ‘Want land? Got land?’

“What we’re facing is a really significant change in assets in terms of land and farm ownership,” says Penrice.

“We need to figure out this whole land access issue. How do we match up people who are looking for land and people who have land?”

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

Precision Agriculture at Olds College

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

A Smart Farm uses GPS, soil scanning and a number of other technologies connected to the internet to employ precision agriculture—that is, being selective with farm management techniques to increase the quality and quantity of food production.

With support from AREF, Olds College is developing a multimedia Smart Ag Digital Story Map to showcase the science and technology used on a Smart Farm. “It harnesses the power of both maps and stories to capture the different perspectives of our Olds College Smart Farm partners,” says Jason Bradley, the director of Smart Ag at Olds College. “We’re capturing the value proposition of each product or service provided to show how the technology works and how it interacts and performs as part of our connected farm or smart ag ecosystem.” Agriculture and agrifood production are predicted to be among the top drivers of Alberta’s future GDP growth so it’s important to help educate people about new technologies in the sector. “Stories and maps have been how we have shared knowledge and information since the dawn of time,” says Bradley. “The project is validating the best practises on our farm and helps us prove to those who will inherit this land that we stewarded it to the best of our knowledge and capability.”

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

 

 

March 2019 Community Investment

The Board of Governors of the Alberta Real Estate Foundation approved $861,000 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 established in 1991 under the Alberta Real Estate Act. Since then, it has awarded 20 million dollars in community and industry grants to over 600 projects across Alberta.

Projects approved at the March meeting include:

Alberta Emerald Foundation Provincial Environmental Recognition Program

The Alberta Emerald Foundation is Alberta’s environmental good-news storytellers connecting the province’s environmental leaders and providing a voice to share their positive examples to inspire others. The Foundation is committed to providing year-round programming that engages, informs, and emboldens environmental stewardship in Alberta.

Alberta Real Estate FoundationThe Next Step: Examining the Real Estate Foundation Revenue Model & Modernization

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) was formed in 1990-1991. Next year, the Foundation will celebrate 30 years and now is the time for reflecting on what has worked well with the AREF model to date and how the Foundation can position itself in a changing world of payments, interest rates and community investment and continue to innovate for its next 30 years. This project will provide the Foundation the opportunity to work with stakeholders to imagine better workflows, better consumer protection and modernize the Alberta Real Estate Foundation model.

Center for Public Legal Education AlbertaResidential Tenancies Legal Information Program

The Residential Tenancies Legal Information Program is the best source of easy to understand, accessible and accurate legal information about landlord and tenant matters in Alberta. The program provides vital information to Albertans online, in print and in person.

Pembina InstituteLandowners Guide to Oil and Gas Phase III

Landowners have a number of concerns with abandoned (but not reclaimed), orphaned and/or inactive sites on their property. Backlogged oil and gas liabilities pose fiscal, environmental, and health risks. The recent Supreme Court ruling on the Redwater case means that operators must fulfil their environmental obligations before paying back creditors. However, when an operator goes bankrupt there is a strong likelihood that the revenues generated from liquidating assets will not cover cleanup costs —and the Orphan Well Association’s (OWA) inventory will continue to grow. The Landowners Guide will educate landowners on how to navigate the complex system of abandoned wells on their property.

The Natural Step Canada’s Energy Futures LabEnergy Futures Roadshow

The Energy Futures Roadshow is an initiative to strengthen community resilience in Alberta by helping communities explore the opportunities and challenges arising from energy transition. It harnesses the combined knowledge, skills and networks of the Energy Futures Lab Fellows and the assets of the Energy Futures Lab to create a program tailored to the community’s interests and delivered in collaboration with the host community. The engagement will typically include a series of workshops over a few days with a diversity of community members, including businesses, governments, schools, economic and community developers and the public. Roadshow communities will be invited into a support network to facilitate ongoing learning and sharing of lessons, collaborative projects and action across communities. The project also includes direct engagement with rural community leaders.

University of Calgary, Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research (CESAR) InitiativeMobility-as-a-Service and Parking in Alberta and Canada: Implications for the Real Estate Industry

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) describes a shift away from personally-owned modes of transportation and towards mobility solutions that are consumed as a service. MaaS is being made possible by massive investments in the synthesis and integration of automation, connectivity, electrification and sharing in vehicles. Given the movement towards MaaS and its potential disruption of parking in Canada, it is important to be able to quantify the amount and value of the land that could be released for other uses, as well as the potential foregone capital and operating costs of providing and maintaining parking infrastructure. To address this need, CESAR will conduct the research and carry out the analyses needed to first provide an inventory of parking supply in Canada and in Alberta. These data will then be combined with estimated unit costs for the building and maintaining of that inventory. The report will end with a discussion of the potential implications of MaaS on the real estate sector in Alberta and across Canada.

University of Calgary, Haskayne School of Business Anchor Institutions: Diversifying economic growth engines for Calgary’s urban revitalization

This interdisciplinary project will study a new development solution based on anchor institutions to revitalize Calgary’s declining urban core. The economic downturn has brought considerable negative impacts on the urban core represented by the high vacancy rate of downtown’s Class-A office buildings and dilapidated housing and aging infrastructure in the urban core areas. To develop solutions to these challenges, the project will 1) conduct research on best practices of urban revitalization catalyzed by anchor institutions, 2) study supporting planning policies (e.g., financial incentives, development regulations), and 3) produce development scenarios through interdisciplinary studio courses.

University of Calgary, The School of Public PolicyAirBnB and the Secondhand Economy

This project will research the second-hand housing market will seek to improve understanding of the impacts and trends of home sharing services such as Airbnb, particularly on rental and housing markets, with a focus on Calgary and other cities in Alberta. Specifically, the project will seek to understand the main impacts of home sharing in Calgary and factors influencing these impacts; what it means for home ownership and affordability and community characteristics; what are the trends and what might the market and its effects look like in the future; what are similar cities doing to address related issues; and what are policy options for the City of Calgary to develop a suitable framework for regulating the market and how might such a framework be implemented?

University of Calgary, The School of Public PolicyManaging End of Life of Oil and Gas Wells

The School of Public Policy continues its research into the growing problem of orphaned and abandoned oil & gas wells. The project will advance research on effective and equitable policy approaches to address public and private challenges from these wells.

Resiliency through Industry Partnerships

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

Highbanks provides subsidized, safe and affordable housing along with some other supports for 11 young families in Calgary. With funding from AREF, Highbanks is hiring real estate consultants to explore and develop creative partnerships with landlords, property owners, builders and developers. The aim is to work together to come up with creative ways to provide affordable housing for young single mothers, fill vacancies in market rental housing and build resiliency in the community.

“We are really excited to start thinking about how we might address the huge need. The money from AREF allows us to think in non-traditional ways about how we might be able to expand our reach,” says Krista Flint, the executive director at Highbanks. “We are really keen to break down the paradigm of ‘We need a capital campaign and we need to build something else,’ because there are so many wildly innovative models for spaces for social good and we’re really excited to lead that thinking in our sector.”

Highbanks helps young mothers and their children who are homeless, at risk of being homeless or leaving profoundly traumatic situations. “We provide a housing first model with a focus on education and everything we do is sensitive to the deep trauma most of our girls have experienced,” she says. The mothers, many of whom haven’t finished high school, are required to go to school full time. Over the last 15 years, many of the young women that Highbanks has helped have gone on to get post-secondary diplomas or degrees.

Highbanks puts on community events and provides workshops and classes on parenting, coping and stress strategies, financial literacy, nutrition and life skills. A registered social worker refers women to other agencies and supports. It costs about $35,000 a year to help each family— an investment which Highbanks estimates saves taxpayers about $650,000 in publically-funded social services costs.

“We work very closely with organizations concerned with homelessness in Calgary. At any given time, we have about 30 young moms on our waiting list seeking help,” Flint says. “About 97 per cent of the young women who leave us go on to pay market rent and in some wonderful cases, own their own home.

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

Methods of Remediation of Contaminated Water and Excess Nutrients

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

Research at Olds College has determined at least three native wetland plants in Alberta—sedges, cattails and bulrushes—are “working very well” removing contaminants and excess nutrients from the water. “There’s no data that indicates what plants, what kind of contaminants or nutrients each plant takes up and how much the plants can take up at a time,” says Ruth Elvestad, research technician at Olds College Centre for Innovation.

That’s why AREF supported furthering the research with a project called: Use of Native Wetland Plants and Cold Climate Floating Island Systems for the Remediation of Contaminated Water and Water with Excess Nutrients. The project will test several more native wetland plants to help landowners understand the value of wetlands on their property and how different plants can clean up different contaminants.

“We would say let’s test the water that has algae or other contaminants,” says Elvestad. “Then we should be able to say ‘This is what you’ve got going on in your pond so you need plant X, Y or Z and this is how many you need of each in order to assist in cleaning your water so it can be recycled and used in agriculture, irrigation, and other applicable industries.’”

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

Rural Climate Solutions Online Resources and Broadcasting

2017-2018 Annual Report Highlight

The Stettler Learning Centre is creating a series of podcasts and a website that are “part educational tool, part source of inspiration” aimed at Alberta producers who want to understand what they can do on the farm to help move toward a clean energy economy.

“This podcast comes straight out of Alberta—one of Canada’s biggest agriculture and energy producers— and dives into the technology and practices that are both good for the farm and good for the climate,” says Derek Leahy, the project coordinator for Rural Routes to Climate Solutions at the Stettler Learning Centre. “The agriculture sector is often characterized as a cause of climate change as opposed to a solution but most people do not realize that there are farming practices that can help us in the fight against climate change.”

From solar power to better land management, many of the practices that can help the environment can also help improve farming and ranching operations. “There are many producers who do not realize many climate solutions can help their farming and ranching operations thrive,” says Leahy. For example, using biodiversity can boost productivity, manage pests and help the land endure Alberta’s endless cycle of floods and droughts. Another podcast covers the benefits of formalizing a cooperative among agricultural producers to save on costs and minimize operators’ environmental footprints.

“Producers are constantly looking for opportunities and new techniques to improve my agricultural operations,” says Leahy. “Our project connects those dots by providing clear, informative and entertaining explanations on how producers can benefit from using climate solutions on their land.”

AREF’s support for the project allows the Learning Centre extend an existing program that received funding from the Alberta Government Community Environment Action Grant program. The initial program developed workshops and other materials for producers about agricultural and land-use practices that reduce carbon emissions.

Turning those materials into podcasts provides a really convenient method for producers to consume the information. “For producers, time is limited and it is also a precious commodity. But with the podcast, a producer can simply download episodes on to his or her phone and listen on the job, particularly on those days that they’re on a tractor or combine all day.” says Leahy.

“It is our hope that through this easily accessible method of learning, producers will be informed and inspired to use climate solutions on their farms. They will benefit and we will all benefit from this.”

Listen to the Rural Routes to Climate Solutions podcast here!

Read the Alberta Real Estate Foundation’s full 2017-2018 Annual Report.

Why Alberta Should Say No to a Land Transfer Tax

For Immediate Release, Calgary – Alberta’s deficit is high and might be growing. There are two solutions to fix that – either cut spending or raise new revenue.  The School of Public Policy has launched the Alberta’s Fiscal Future program to study various options for getting us back on track.

As part of that program, The School is looking at various tax revenue options. One is a tax used by BC and Ontario.  It’s the Land Transfer Tax.  That’s a tax on the sale of property.  That tax is generating a lot of revenue in BC and Ontario.  So, should we consider it in Alberta?

The answer is a definitive “no” according to noted tax expert Prof. Bev Dahlby and his co-author Braeden Larson.

This paper examines previous research on land transfer taxes in Canada, Australia and Europe, and concludes that such a tax would only add more volatility to Alberta’s resource revenue-based economy. A one-per-cent land transfer tax in Alberta would have yielded between $460 million and $500 million for provincial coffers in 2017. However appealing that amount of revenue sounds, the tax benefits do not outweigh the drawbacks. Land transfer values in Alberta can undergo substantial change from one year to the next, making a land transfer tax a highly precarious revenue source. Nor would a land transfer tax benefit Albertans who are in the market for a home. Studies show that such taxes discourage residential real estate transactions. If land transfer taxes are burdensome for homebuyers, they are equally so for sellers who may be compelled to lower their asking prices to make up for the extra costs. This leads to a drop in fair market value of homes with a negative impact on the volume and value of real estate transactions.

According to Dahlby, “While a land transfer tax could potentially raise a significant amount of revenue for the Alberta government it still would be insufficient to cover the province’s current fiscal deficit. The situation would be made worse by a negative spin-off effect for the economy due to the reduction of transactions, and a slippage in tax revenues because of declines in the value and volume of land transfers. This paper estimates those declines to be between five and 15 per cent.”

If tax reform is needed to re-align the revenue/expenditure formula for Alberta, a sales tax is preferable to a land transfer tax.

The paper can be downloaded on from The School of Public Policy’s website.

Media contact:
Morten Paulsen
morten.paulsen2@ucalgary.ca
403.220.2540

New look of Pembina’s New Energy Economy Map

It’s been over a year since the New Energy Economy project got its start, premiering at the 2017 Alberta Climate Summit. The goal was to share stories of Albertans taking hold of the energy evolution well underway in the province, and in less than a year it has made amazing progress.

Today, the New Energy Economy Map has over 200 projects, each having broken ground after 2012. They have published more than 20 stories and profiles about these projects and the people who make them happen — touching on renewable energy, efficiency, education, transportation, clean technologies and more. The map is always growing, with new stories published every week.

 

Foundation introduces Governor Janice Resch

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation (AREF) is pleased to announce that Janice Resch has joined our Board of Governors for a three-year term. She brings a wealth of experience in the real estate industry and is looking forward to bringing her considerable knowledge and strengths to the board. “I love the fact that we as an industry can make a positive impact on Alberta and Albertans while supporting organized Real Estate at the same time,” she says.

Janice has worked in the industry since 1995, when she joined the family real estate firm in Red Deer that her dad bought in 1962. Over the course of her 23 years specializing in residential real estate in Central Alberta, Janice has earned a long list of industry achievements, including serving as President of the Red Deer and District Real Estate Association not once but twice. “I am proud to be the third person in my family to serve as President of the Central Alberta Realtors Association following in the footsteps of my father and brother,” she says.

Janice, a member of the top producing ‘The Consider it Done’ Team at Century 21 Advantage, has also served the industry as a director of The Alberta Real Estate Association and chair of the Red Deer Realtors Charitable Foundation. She has received a number of awards over the decades including the AREA Quality of Life Award in 2006, CARA Realtor of the Year in 2008 and AREA Life Member Award in 2012.  Janice and her husband Ron have four children and six grandchildren, and the entire family lives in Red Deer.  “I have a passion for giving back to the people and the industry that has been so good to me and my family,” she says. “I look forward working with the AREF team.”

University of Alberta Enhances Research on Urban Expansion

“Urban Alberta is spilling into rural,” says Brent Swallow, an environment and development economist. Too often, decisions about land designation are driven by short-term goals, he says. But there are long-term costs to development and to the “ecosystem services” that rural land provides for cities, such as clean air and water.

Balancing urban expansion with rural conservation is challenging and heavily influenced by people’s attitudes and beliefs. For example, do urbanites in Alberta want to preserve the rural land around their cities? Do they want more locally grown produce at the farmers markets? Are they willing to pay extra to keep the city outskirts green?

The Alberta Real Estate Foundation wants to find answers to these questions to help the real estate industry better understand issues around land stewardship. The foundation’s $50,000 donation will make it possible for Swallow and his research team in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences to conduct a province wide survey of urban attitudes toward fragmentation, conversion and conservation of agricultural land.