Good Ideas Matter: Cultivate Sustainability and Liveability

Over 15 days of 30+ degree heat here in Spruce Grove (so far) this year, a record. The air has often been filled with smoke from massive wildfires. Everyday, it seems we’re hearing of another disaster that can be attributed to climate change.

It’s action time. The city believes in climate action and there’s plenty we’ve done and can do to help lessen our impact.

Climate change is destroying our path to sustainability. Ours is a world of looming challenges and increasingly limited resources. Sustainable development offers the best chance to adjust our course.

Ban Ki-moon
Erin Stevenson sitting on a yellow metal bench in the community garden

The Ideas

There are 3 sections- ideas for going forward, current initiatives in progress, and initiatives that have been implemented.

2021 Ideas Going Forward:

  • The city should not be car centred. We need to embrace multi-modal ways of getting around the city. Walkable city centre and neighbourhoods is a minimum.
  • Continue to explore and research ways to reduce our waste (waste to energy, recycling, compost). This is a regional problem and possibly a good Shared Investment for Shared Benefit (SISB) project.
  • Connecting our communities with our neighbours and making it safe to commute even in our industrial area and to services like the Eco centre, dog park and food bank.
  • Engage with residents regarding the land use bylaw. We’ve consulted with the development community, now it’s time to hear from residents. It’s time to find out whether we should be allowing liquor stores or pubs in neighbourhood strip malls. What are the benefits? Are we building the city sustainably?
  • We hear many of the same type of complaints over and over, but because of existing bylaws, there is very little that can be done. Is it time to review our dog and domestic animal control bylaw and determine whether cats should be included? Is it time to strengthen our noise control bylaw? I think so.
  • With the provincial government relaxing liquor laws, our municipality will have to review whether we would like to see responsible adults be able to drink responsibly in parks.
  • School bus passes are expensive. We have a local on-demand transit network. It’s time to explore ways to encourage youth to take local transit, whether it’s with a reduced fare or even free. Many students take on part-time jobs and access to transit opens up the opportunities for our youth without adding more cars to the road.  
  • Explore the creation of a dog park on the east side of the city.

Initiatives Currently In progress:

  • The city has a Climate Resilience Express action plan that we follow and I support it.
  • We’re not ignoring climate change at the city and we will not be afraid to make the tough decisions regarding our impact on sustainability in the city.
  • We continue to work through the initiatives laid out in the Social Sustainability and Cultural master plans
  • We have a very popular community garden in our city centre with a wait list. We need to build more community gardens, consider edible fruit trees in the city (it’s free food), look at locations for some orchards where we can grow all sorts of fruits and berries. *
  • Continue to advocate and push for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). The province has said they’ll bring in legislation, we need to ensure they do. The cost is on the municipalities in Alberta to handle the costs of recycling the product. IN every other province, EPR exists. It is time Alberta catch up.
  • Parks around Spruce Grove are seeing upgrades as they age or new safety measures are introduced. The park system here in the Grove is top notch and I support keeping our parks up-to-date and accessible.
  • Clean energy improvement program
  • Continue to monitor greenhouse gas usage and reduce where we can to meet targets.
  • Support the continued funding of the Heritage grant program
  • Support Local transit. Currently it is on-demand but we should be reviewing ridership and opportunities to increase riders in the community.
  • Support our membership in the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Service Commission (EMTSC) as it rolls out in phases over the next few years.
  • Support updating Central Park and the skate park.  

Initiatives that have been implemented:

  • Council passed the Single use plastics ban bylaw in 2021. It will be brought in as of January 1, 2022. This was done after much research and consultation with local businesses and works in conjunction with the federal ban on plastics.
  • I am thrilled to see Council approve funding and the land for the trail connection to Stony Plain. It has only been 25 years in the making.
  • Covid relief- support for local non-profits during Covid
  • Pride is part of liveability wan the Canada and provincial flag purchase went a long way to show our community pride in 2020.
  • The mayor’s legacy–Spruce up Spruce Grove!
  • We have two historical designations in our city (the McLaughlin Home and the Grain elevator). It’s part our history and happy we created a policy to preserve them.
  • The Open Space area bylaw was updated to reflect new trends and ways our open spaces are being used.

A * denotes this idea was a part of my 2017 campaign platform and was happy to support and vote in favour. It does not mean I was responsible for it as it is a council decision to move any initiative forward.

Healthy Foundations Matter: Environmental Well-Being

Climate change is real, and our city needs to be a leader in climate resiliency. Our summers are hotter, our winters colder. The extremes are becoming nearly unbearable. The smoke coming from forest fires throughout western Canada is becoming a common occurrence in the summers. Increasing powerful weather systems are bringing the 1-in-100 year storm more often. We hear of streets and basements flooding in older neighbourhoods that weren’t built to handle these types of storms. Are we a city prepared to deal with climate change in 2021 and 2031 and 2041?

After lengthy consultation with our businesses, a single use plastics ban goes into effect on January 1, 2022. Local businesses understand they too play a part in reducing waste. We have an excellent waste management program with garbage, compost and recycling well established here in the city. We can do more to use our compost bins and we have to work with other levels of government to create more opportunities to decrease our waste.

Currently, our waste is buried in landfills- not an ideal situation. Our recycling is shipped overseas, often creating environmental disasters there rather than truly addressing recycling. Closed-loop recycling needs to be considered. Waste-to-energy for the region needs to be explored further. The provincial government has to implement “Extended Producer Responsibility” (EPR) in the province, putting the costs (physical or monetary) of recycling on those that create the product rather than on the municipalities, who bear the costs now.

Environmental wellness is a process that involves learning about and contributing to the health of the planet. This involves establishing a sustainable lifestyle, protecting natural resources, and eliminating pollutants and excessive waste.  Environmental wellness also includes having respect for and awareness of your surroundings and playing an active role in your community.
Erin Stevenson in the sitting on the edge of a garden in the community gaden

We act now so that we can continue to enjoy the wonders of our natural systems here in Spruce Grove. We have amazing trails that meander through our beautiful parks and neighbourhoods, near storm ponds, through Heritage Park and near environmentally sensitive areas. Our city is green and we want to keep it that way. A lot of effort has gone to creating a city that blends with our natural systems. We don’t want our residents to have to leave the city in order to enjoy nature. We want to live within it.

And opportunities abound. More community gardens, orchards, edible fruit trees planted around the city (free food), naturalization processes around storm ponds and ditches and more. The city has a responsibility to maintain a system that works for all of us. New developments can change the way a wet area of the city drains so we have to consider all the impacts development, and the types of development we allow, so we are not exacerbating existing concerns or creating new ones. Development and the environment is a very complex issue.

The environment is a key pillar to what we do and how we do it going forward. Environmental well-being is one of give aspects that make up our community’s well-being. As a resident and a member of council, consider the following:

  1. Climate Resiliency– You believe in climate change and understand the impacts human activity has had on the environment. You are committed to doing your part, even if it’s just small change at a time. You conserve water and energy. You recycle and compost.  You minimize your waste.
  2. Natural systems- You understand the use of storm ponds but appreciate the nature it attracts. You see the impact climate change is having on our systems and agree with maintaining a system rather than fixing broken ones. You see the complexity that is our storm system— sewers, ponds and ditches and the work it takes to maintain them. You understand the number one natural disaster threat to us is fire. You understand why we don’t use harsh chemicals on fields to fight weed as we learn to change our way of thinking of lawns, and plants and naturalization efforts.
  3. Delight and enjoyment- You love our parks and trail systems and enjoy the beauty found amongst our neighbourhoods. You’re impressed with the community garden and would like to see more. You understand that planting edible fruit trees means free food for those who might not be able to afford it. You love trees- all the trees! You delight in nature and appreciate the work gone in to creating and maintaining these natural areas. It bring you joy knowing this is in the city you live in.