Part of the work of the Edmonton Social Planning Council is to provide opportunities for citizens to engage in their community.  Through understanding the various positions candidates hold on issues, voter can make informed decisions.   Earlier this month we asked the candidate for the upcoming 2017 municipal election to answer one question related to poverty elimination. Candidates were advised that their answers would be shared verbatim. 

Candidates were asked the following question, “Can you please identify what the City of Edmonton’s top priorities should be to reduce poverty in our community?”  Here are the responses that we received.


Carla Frost:

The city of Edmonton will be using the same platform to you and even give you numbers but it will be the same. If you are supporting and believing that the City of Edmonton is going to end poverty l suggest you bring as many people as you can out to the Mayoral forums as you can. Bring everyone to hear the same and to hear the truth.

Don Iveson:

I want to first thank the Edmonton Social Planning Council for the opportunity to address this important question and for all the great work they do year-round to improve the lives of the most vulnerable Edmontonians. Back in 2014, I established and co-chaired a Task Force to Eliminate Poverty, along with Bishop Jane Alexander. The task force was composed of 7 Working Groups to address key priorities around poverty: early childhood development education, health and wellness, housing and transportation, community well-being, economic security and justice and democratic participation. After consulting and engaging more than 3,000 Edmontonians over two years, the task force developed 400 recommendations, which were informed by evidence and the experience of those who have lived in poverty.

From these 400 recommendations, EndPovertyEdmonton formed 35 Priority Actions organized under 6 Game Changers. These are where I believe the City Council and the City of Edmonton should focus our efforts to maximize our impact and really move the needle on tackling poverty. The six game changers are:

1. Eliminate Racism

2. Provide livable incomes

3. Increase access to affordable housing

4. Creating accessible and affordable transit

5. Provide affordable quality child care

6. Ensure access to mental health services

I also firmly believe that the City should support communities to find solutions and address problems themselves. I will continue to support the vital work of organizations like the United Way and the Edmonton Social Planning Council. A city that looks out for it’s most vulnerable is a city that succeeds and together we can achieve the goal of ending poverty in Edmonton. Thank you.

Ward 1

Andrew Knack:

The top priority for reducing poverty in our community is to ensure everyone has the appropriate housing. While proper housing is not the only requirement to reducing poverty, it is the most important part. Following through on the updated 10 year plan to end homelessness will allow us to significantly reduce poverty. The other important action is to work on the End Poverty Edmonton strategy which was previously approved by Council. Thanks again for the message and have a great day.

Ward 2

Bev Esslinger:

Edmonton City and City Council has worked hard with all stakeholders to create a community strategy to End Poverty in one generation.  I fully support EndPoverty Edmonton and its direction.  Now that we understand what poverty is, how it affects people and the case to end it has been made it is time for us to act.  We all have a part and the six game changers identified are to eliminate racism, livable incomes, affordable housing, accessible & affordable transit, affordable & quality child care and access to mental & health services.   It will take all of us working together to end poverty.   I have personally been working as the co-chair of the Early Learning & Care Steering Committee, funded by End Poverty which is working to create an integrated system of early learning and care in Edmonton which includes affordable, high quality and accessible child care for those who need it most.

Ward 3

Jon Dziadyk:

We need to control our spending and prioritize looking after people.

John Oplanich:

I have been helping the homeless for a number of years.

It`s not going away.

Lots of money is required for social programs. 

Education is probably the best place to start.

The basics are required like a place to hang there hats.  

Cities & gov`t are crucial but we have to lean on churches, communities and our community leaders.

Every little bit will help.

Agencies to help people find work – small business like McDonalds.

Instead of giving them fish show them how to fish – education.

They don`t want handouts they want to contribute.

Cities have lots of buildings and land they can donate so

they can give the poor a stepping stone to climb out of poverty.

It`s not going away on it`s own!

Ward 4

Beatrice Kerybo Ghettuba:

These are the issues that I consider the priority to end Poverty in Edmonton.

1.       A realistic policy to end Homelessness

2.       A well thought out strategy AND the courage to end all forms of racism and discrimination including systemic entry barriers that exist in City Hall itself

3.       Working with the Province and businesses on sustainable incomes for families to live on. Clearly, think about job creation opportunity in every initiative.

Ward 5

Nafisa Bowen:

I grew up in a working-class family in Edmonton. We relied on community services and City parks to enrich our lives. I believe the City’s top priorities should be centered on providing affordable housing and accessible transit. 

Creating affordable housing options will tackle a major barrier for those living in poverty. Housing needs to be affordable as well as attainable. The City must work with individual communities to determine the best sites to create affordable housing options. I believe each neighbourhood should be treated individually and proactively involve community members in the planning. The Londonderry affordable housing development in the Kilkenny neighbourhood is an excellent model to build from. Community members were consulted on everything from the design to the number of units the development will hold. Implementing a robust consultation model is key to ensuring the successful integration of affordable housing and reducing poverty in our city.

Accessible transit will connect all Edmontonians to amenities, services, and participate activities around the City. For those living in poverty, affordable, accessible, and reliable transit is a lifeline. As a teenager and young adult, I relied heavily on Edmonton Transit Service. It was affordable for my family and took me where I needed to go.  We need to invest in a system that allows seniors, families, students, and all Edmontonians to get where they need to go safely and in a timely manner. 

External to the End Poverty Edmonton Strategy, I believe we need to change the stigma surrounding poverty. From newcomers seeking to start a new life, to people impacted by a downturn in the economy, to families that unexpectedly split up, the reality is that anyone in our city can be thrust into poverty. Sharing positive outcomes as a result of poverty reduction strategies needs to be part of the conversation in order to encourage future growth and keep our strategy on track. 

Dawn Newton:

Poverty is an issue with a huge price tag, costing Albertans between 7 and 9 billion dollars every year in health care, crime, and lost opportunities. I believe the City of Edmonton is well positioned to have an impact on several key areas to reduce poverty, including affordable housing, accessible transportation, and a culture of diversity and inclusion.  

I fully support the city’s affordable housing strategy and its goals. The focus of our current housing approach is on the chronically homeless and hard to house individuals. We need to expand this program to ensure there are spaces for those fleeing abuse and families, to help lift children out of poverty.

I am committed to expanding the availability of transit services and continuing initiatives like Providing Affordable Transit Here (PATH), providing free bus passes to those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

I successfully advocated for policy change on the issue of diversity training for Council and employees. I will continue to champion the elimination of racism and discrimination, leading by example and helping to create a sense of place for all Edmontonians. 

While poverty is a complex issue requiring a multi-faceted approach, I believe with a committed city council and sustained efforts by community partners, we will have better outcomes for vulnerable Edmontonians living in poverty.

Ward 6

No responses

Ward 7

Liz John-West:

There are several ways to reduce poverty: 

1.  More affordable housing especially for seniors.

2. School lunch programs

3.  Increase social assistance 

4. Free child care for low income families when they are attending school or working at a minimum paying job.

5.  Increase the minimum pay

6. Affordable transit 

7. 24 hour day cares

8.  Accessible and affordable and relevant job training programs where there is a job at the end of the training.

9.  Practical education which is 6 months to 2 years long and there is a job at the end of the training.

10. More LINK classes

Matthew Kleywegt:

I think Edmonton's top priorities in reducing poverty are:

1) Affordable housing

2) Food security

3) Support for Literacy and training programs

4) Make it easier to start a small business

5) Provide affordable childcare

Ward 8

Kirsten Goa:

Here are my top priorities for reducing poverty in Edmonton. 

1. Affordable housing — we need to address the need for the full range of affordable housing options from permanent supportive housing to limited equity home ownership. Housing provides stability that makes it possible for people to meet their other needs, secure and maintain employment and make ends meet. Right now appropriate, affordable housing is out of reach for far too many Edmontonians. 

We need to be building affordable family oriented housing to address a variety of needs and demographics across all large-scale infill in Edmonton and in new greenfield developments as well. It is essential that these developments be close to transit and other amenities. This housing needs to be integrated across the City. This adds to the vibrancy and sustainability of a community and of the families that has make this home. 

2. Affordable Childcare — Although this is primarily a provincial jurisdiction issue, the City can take leadership on providing appropriate affordable spaces in new and existing buildings in order to bring stability to childcare providers and also bring costs down for families. Without affordable childcare, many/most parents (and usually women) are in a position where they are choosing between their careers and their children. In 2017, this should no longer be the norm, but it is. This also often puts stable employment and/or continuing education out of reach for many single parents. 

3. Community building — Poverty is not only shaped by a lack of money. The social determinants of heath demonstrate that a well-connected community of support and other resources can mitigate some of the worst impacts of poverty. One of the challenges that we face is that poverty in Edmonton often comes with extensive involvement with professionals and more difficulty maintaining stable natural communities of support. In fact our systems are often set up to discourage social cohesion. Programs like Abundant Communities, provide opportunities for people to connect around common interests in their communities despite (and because of?) the diverse life experiences and contexts people come from. Supporting the "natural supports" of individuals and families who are in poverty will go a long way to enhancing their ability to engage effectively and build a community. This should not replace much needed professional and financial support, but needs to be fostered intentionally. 

4. Liveable income policy — I would like to introduce a liveable income policy for City staff and contractors. This does not address the need for an overall income shift, but it does demonstrate that the City is serious about addressing income inequality. 

5. Energy efficiency retrofitting for existing non-market housing stock and movement towards integrating higher requirements for new buildings. 

Ben Henderson:

As a Councillor who has been working for many years to create a City of Edmonton poverty elimination strategy the simple answer is that we now have to get on with the implementation of all the recommendations in that strategy primarily through the work of End Poverty Edmonton that has been created to shepherd the strategy into reality. 

The City has already committed to creating the new Community Development Corporation, creating a low income transit pass, starting the critical work on eliminating racism, bringing together a coalition to drive forward towards substantially improved early childhood learning and the connected early child hood care to name a few of the recently approved key initiatives. This is in addition to the work being done by our other partners as we move collectively forward to the goal of ending poverty in Edmonton within a generation.

As well the ongoing push to end homelessness and to deal with the critical shortage of affordable housing, most importantly supportive housing, must be seen through so we can meet our ten year goal of eliminating homelessness in our City.

Also, critically, the work towards reconciliation and building a much healthier relationship with the indigenous citizens within our city and in our surrounding First Nation and Metis communities must also continue to receive primary attention.

Ward 9

Tim Cartmell:

Poverty is a hidden issue for many Edmontonians, with many not realizing the full extent of the problem in our city.

The statistics are stark. With 1 in 8 people living in poverty and 30 per cent of those living in poverty being children, this is a problem that cannot be ignored.

The costs to society as a whole when poverty goes unnoticed are extreme. Poverty leads to diminished nutrition, which leads to increased healthcare costs.  Poverty can lead to homelessness, even on a sporadic basis, which diminishes the chances of successful education outcomes for children. Diminished success in school can lead to diminished job skills later in life, which precipitates further under-employment or unemployment and continues that cycle of poverty. 

Investing in poverty elimination in Edmonton is a key investment, one that will pay significant dividends.  Unfortunately, those dividends are generational – an investment today leads to successful outcomes a generation from now.  In an immediate-feedback world, it is hard to gain support for such investments in the face of more tangible, direct needs such as infrastructure investments.

I think one key priority for poverty elimination is a continuing effort to inform citizens of these challenges, and the benefits of investment. I know there is a lot of work done here, and that we are talking about a cultural change. 

In my professional life, I have seen a similar need for a cultural shift around safety on construction sites.  That change in culture came about by constantly and continually talking about the need for increased safety awareness, about watching out for your fellow worker.  Every meeting I attend on a construction site starts with a safety moment – an anecdote about a close call.  A new hazard or a changed condition.  A new safety policy or procedure.

What if we encouraged all community groups to start their meetings with a 3-5 minute discussion about poverty?  What if each community league and district council started their meeting with a poverty discussion?  Could this be something that the City of Edmonton Community Resource Coordinators initiate at the meetings they attend?  I think this might be one way to actually increase awareness of this issue, particularly if the conversation is community focused.

As a second priority, I would challenge our corporate and leadership community to get involved, first by educating their employees where possible, and secondly by investing in poverty elimination initiatives and the community groups working towards this goal.  

I think we can appeal to leaders in the community and leaders in business to become aware and to take an active role in moving the agenda forward so that we can make investments today that will pay off tomorrow.

Ward 10

Glenda K. Williams:

  • Open Government
  • Against Racism and Carding
  • Improve neighbourhood safety
  • Low Income and Affordable Housing, especially for Seniors
  • End of Poverty and Homelessness
  • Early Childhood Education creating Edmonton’s future champions
  • Seniors access to ETS
  • Pave back alley pot holes – create a plan that fixes the cause, include in street maintenance
  • Separated bike lanes
  • Affordable Infill Housing that beautifies and revitalizes but doesn’t adversely effect those on fixed incomes, multigenerational housing

Ward 11

Brandy Burdeniuk:

This is an issue that is important to me, especially children and youth that live in poverty in our city and our underserved homeless youth population.  I think the City of Edmonton's top priority to reduce poverty should be to continue working with the many organizations working hard to address poverty and homelessness in our city.  As a councillor I will commit to learning from and working with organizations like End Poverty Edmonton, YESS, GEF Seniors Housing and Homeward Trust.  I have already spent years learning from and volunteering for a diversity of organizations addressing the diverse challenges of poverty including but not limited to Alberta Drug Harm Reduction, Save the Children Canada, Old Strathcona Youth Society, Edmonton Food Bank and Habitat for Humanity. Most recently I have taken the time to read and learn from End Poverty Edmonton’s “Road Map to End Poverty in a Generation” which specifically notes that we need to commit to place-based, person-centered supports and services throughout our city.  Knowing that business can be done a better way, I have always focused my career on advocating for social, environmental & economic sustainability. I can leverage that experience and work with End Poverty Edmonton as Councillor of Ward 11.

Keren Tang:

For most of my career, I’ve worked with vulnerable populations and recognize that many of the
factors leading to poverty are structural and interrelated. The most recent numbers from the
Edmonton Social Planning Council show that over 100,000 Edmontonians are living in poverty,
with single mothers and Indigenous people accounting for a disproportionate number of these
citizens. From my experiences, the key priorities the City must take to reduce poverty are the

  • Increase affordable housing
  • Provide a living wage as a base pay
  • Ensure transit and other city services are affordable
  • Encourage job creation
  • Eliminate social isolation
  • Strengthen social services and civic engagement for vulnerable populations

Investing in affordable housing will alleviate homelessness, promote safety, and benefit our collective well-being. As a Councillor, I will be a bridge between community and government: I would engage citizens in meaningful dialogue on affordable housing and establish partnerships between planners, developers, and community leagues to identify ideas for housing. I would give community members an opportunity to participate in the design anddevelopment of housing solutions. The LRT presents an excellent opportunity to include new housing sites in close proximity to transit hubs, and integrate affordable housing into
development projects so that we create socioeconomically diverse communities.

I believe that the gradual increase to the minimum wage, as it is currently being implemented, is the right approach for our city and province. As of October 1, 2018, the general minimum wage will rise to $15 per hour across the province. While economists argue over the economic impacts of such measures, the experiences of other cities that have raised their minimum wage, such as Seattle, provide encouraging data that shows increased economic vibrancy.

Access to public transit is a significant barrier for low-income Edmontonians. The City will be introducing modern bus passes that allow people to pay-as-they-go for transit usage until they have reached the monthly bus pass threshold amount. Studies have shown flexible payment policies like these increase access to public transit and reduce the impacts of poverty. The City’s Transit Strategy review has reduced service frequency and cut some bus routes in Ward 11. Like many residents, I am a transit user who shares their concern that without fast, reliable bus routes, jobs might suffer. I will work with residents and reach out to those who face barriers to participation in decision-making about public transportation. I will connect with communities and private sector partners to identify options to fill the transit gap and ensure our public transportation system is efficient and affordable.

The City should facilitate job creation by attracting more global companies to Edmonton, and by making it easier for Edmontonians to start and grow businesses locally. Globally, from Deep Mind to the Merk and Chinese Accelerators, Edmonton is encouraging young innovators to become the city’s next generation of job creators. Locally, I will work to streamline City permit processes so that they empower entrepreneurs and cultivate new job opportunities—If we encourage businesses to develop and thrive in Ward 11, residents will have more opportunities and our neighbourhoods will be revitalized by newcomers.

To eliminate social isolation, we need to strengthen neighbourhood networks, such as community leagues and Abundant Communities Edmonton. We can create stronger communities and more effective local leaders.

To strengthen social services and civic engagement for vulnerable populations,we need to create more welcoming, inclusive opportunities for participation. I want to see greater diversity of representation in civic committees and an intentional effort to reach out to those who face barriers to participation. I will work to deepen relationships between Ward 11’s different cultural communities. As the former President of the Edmonton Multicultural Coalition, and a recent immigrant myself, I know that safe, healthy communities benefit everyone.

Ward 12

No Responses




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