By KERRY DIOTTE
Member of Parliament
If you look up the definition in a dictionary of “giving back to the community” it should be accompanied by a picture of the Northlands organization beside the entry.
The not-for-profit agricultural society, located in my federal riding of Edmonton Griesbach, has been giving back to our community for longer than Edmonton has been a city.
There’s hardly a better example of the good work this organization does than Monday Morning Magic whereby children with special needs (and their friends and parents) get the run of the K-Days fair midway for free along with snacks, entertainment and more. It’s in cooperation with the rides company, North American Midway.
This year’s Monday Morning Magic was hampered by a downpour but Northlands officials and volunteers simply adapted and worked a little magic indoors where kids were treated to performances by the top dogs of Canine Stars.
There were mascots galore along with princesses, cartoon characters members of the Edmonton Eskimos football team and lots of men and women in uniform — all there to bring smiles to the faces of the excited kids on the 40th anniversary of this annual event.
A big tip of the hat to everyone who made this event a success that brought on so many smiles. A special thanks to Northlands and the volunteers who came out to help this year. They’re part of the hundreds and hundreds of loyal Northlands volunteers. I honestly don’t know what our community would do without them.
On Wednesday August 31 I was glad to put my support behind a plan that would benefit many neighbourhoods in our federal riding of Edmonton Griesbach.
As such, I appeared before Edmonton city council to deliver the remarks below.
I welcome any feedback on this plan to revitalize the Northlands site in our communities.
GOOD AFTERNOON. IT’S BEEN A COUPLE OF YEARS SINCE I WAS IN THIS COUNCIL CHAMBER. IT’S NICE TO BE BACK.
TODAY I’M HERE AS A MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT. I’M HERE TO SPEAK ON BEHALF OF TENS OF THOUSANDS OF RESIDENTS IN OUR NORTH-SIDE RIDING CALLED EDMONTON GRIESBACH.
WE OWE IT TO THOSE GOOD PEOPLE TO ENSURE THE FULL, PROPER DEVELOPMENT OF THE NORTHLANDS SITE AS OUTLINED IN THE VISION 2020 REPORT.
THE COMMUNITIES IN OUR RIDING ARE COUNTING ON THAT: ALBERTA AVENUE, BEACON HEIGHTS, BELLEVUE, BEVERLY HEIGHTS, BOYLE STREET, CROMDALE, EASTWOOD, HIGHLANDS, LAUDERDALE, MCCAULEY, MONTROSE, NEWTON, PARKDALE, RUNDLE HEIGHTS AND VIRGINIA PARK.
THIS IS A ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY TO DO SOMETHING REALLY SPECIAL ON THE NORTH SIDE. ESPECIALLY TO ASSIST NEIGHBOURHOODS THAT HAVE HAD SOCIAL CHALLENGES OVER THE YEARS.
WE KNOW THE CITY OF EDMONTON HAS STEPPED UP TO SPARK DEVELOPMENT WORTH HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS ELSEWHERE. THREE BIG ONES THAT COME TO MIND ARE THE DOWNTOWN ARENA DEVELOPMENT, BLATCHFORD AND THE QUARTERS.
COUNCIL’S RATIONALE FOR BUILDING A NEW ARENA WAS THAT WE NEEDED TO REVITALIZE OUR DOWNTOWN.
WELL, USING THAT RATIONAL. WHAT OTHER PART OF OUR CITY COULD BEST BENEFIT FROM A MAJOR REVITALIZATION?
YOU DON’T NEED A DEGREE IN URBAN PLANNING TO ANSWER THAT. OBVIOUSLY IT’S THE AREA SURROUNDING NORTHLANDS.
THIS CITY COUNCIL HAS SPOKEN OUT STRONGLY IN SUPPORT OF HELPING INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS, REFUGEES AND NEW CANADIANS.
WELL, SUPPORTING THE FULL REDEVELOPMENT OF THE NORTHLANDS SITE WOULD ESPECIALLY BENEFIT THESE POPULATIONS.
THE AREA AROUND NORTHLANDS LIKELY HAS THE HIGHEST POPULATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE IN EDMONTON. IT ALSO HAS A LARGE POPULATION OF REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS. THAT INCLUDES A STRONG SOMALI COMMUNITY.
AND LET’S NOT FORGET ALBERTA AVENUE HAS BECOME A SUCCESSFUL ARTS DISTRICT. 118 AVENUE LOOKS A WHOLE LOT DIFFERENT TODAY THAN IT DID EVEN 10 YEARS AGO.
THESE AREAS SURROUNDING NORTHLANDS DON’T HAVE BIG-BOX STORES OR LARGE CORPORATE OFFICES.
THESE NEIGHBOURHOODS ARE FILLED WITH MOM-AND-POP SHOPS WHERE OWNERS WORK HARD TO MAKE ENDS MEET.
AS WE KNOW, GIVEN OUR ECONOMY, IT’S ALREADY HARD FOR MANY SHOP OWNERS.
WE ALSO KNOW HOW MUCH WORSE THINGS COULD GET IN THIS AREA IF WE DON’T GET THIS REDEVELOPMENT RIGHT.
FAILURE TO DEVELOP THE SITE WOULD SEE PROPERTY VALUES SHRINK BY 10%. THE CITY COULD LOSE UP TO $125 MILLION FROM ITS RESIDENTIAL ASSESSMENT BASE.
IF YOU’VE SPENT YOUR LIFE SAVINGS TO BUY A HOME, YOU SHOULD BE REWARDED BY AN INCREASE IN ITS VALUE, NOT A DECREASE.
THAT’S ANOTHER REASON WHY THIS PROJECT IS SO VITAL.
THERE’S BEEN A DISCOURAGING AMOUNT OF NEGATIVE OPINIONS ABOUT NORTHLANDS’ VISION 2020.
SOME NAYSAYERS HAVE EVEN SAID NORTHLANDS IS BEING GREEDY. OR THE NOT-FOR-PROFITE HAS OUTLIVED ITS USEFULNESS. SOME WANT IT TO JUST GO AWAY AND LET THE CITY DO WHAT IT WANTS WITH THE SITE.
THAT’S BLATANTLY UNFAIR. NORTHLANDS HAS BEEN A PILLAR OF OUR COMMUNITY FOR 137 YEARS. THAT’S EVEN LONGER THAN WE’VE BEEN A CITY.
THE NOT-FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATION HAS DONE A WORLD-CLASS JOB OF RUNNING EVENTS AT REXALL AND OFF AND ON ITS OWN CAMPUS.
UNDER IT’S WATCH REXALL PLACE WAS THE 27TH BUSIEST EVENT FACILITY IN THE WORLD.
AMONG MANY OTHER FUNCTIONS NORTHLANDS HAS RUN K-DAYS, OUR LARGEST PAID FESTIVAL AND OUR K-DAYS PARADE.
IT HAS ALSO SUCCESSFULLY RUN THE EDMONTON EXPO CENTRE. CRITICS COMPLAIN THE TRADE SHOW FACILITY LOSES MONEY.
SO DOES JUST ABOUT EVERY CONFERENCE CENTRE IN NORTH AMERICA.
THEY’RE NOT DESIGNED TO BE MONEY MAKERS THEY’RE DESIGNED TO ATTRACT PEOPLE TO OUR CITY. THOSE PEOPLE IN TURN SPEND MILLIONS OF DOLLARS HERE AND BENEFIT OUR ECONOMY.
NO PUN INTENDED BUT NORTHLANDS HAS A PROVEN TRACK RECORD.
IT HAS AN ARMY OF ABOUT 1,400 VOLUNTEERS YEAR IN AND YEAR OUT. MANY PEOPLE IN THIS CITY GOT THEIR START IN A WORK CAREER BY VOLUNTEERING FOR NORTHLANDS.
BESIDES ALL THAT THEY HAVE A BOARD OF SOME OF OUR CITYS BEST COMMUNITY LEADERS. I HAD THE PLEASURE OF BEING ON THAT BOARD FOR THREE YEARS AND I CAN TELL YOU FIRST-HAND HOW GOOD AND DEDICATED THOSE PEOPLE ARE.
BUT IN THE END IT DOESN’T COME DOWN TO THE CITY VERSUS NORTHLANDS OR NORTHLANDS VERSES THE CITY.
IT COMES DOWN TO PEOPLE. PEOPLE IN THE AREA. SENIORS. YOUNG FAMILIES. INDIGENOUS PEOPLE. NEW IMMIGRANTS.
IT’S THESE PEOPLE WHO DESERVE TO SEE A WORLD-CLASS DEVELOPMENT AT NORTHLANDS.
AS THE MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT WHO REPRESENTS THESE FOLKS, I’M ASKING COUNCIL: PLEASE DO THE RIGHT THING ON THIS ISSUE. ADOPT THE FULL VISION 2020 CONCEPT.
NORTH-SIDE RESIDENTS ARE COUNTING ON YOU TO DO THAT.
By KERRY DIOTTE
This development has to be done and be done right.
Edmonton’s city council owes it to the residents of our north-side federal riding of Edmonton Griesbach to approve Northlands’ Vision 2020 plan.
A good portion of my 100,000-plus federal constituents are counting on the City of Edmonton stepping up to support this vision.
Our riding includes many of the neighbourhoods in the vicinity of Northlands, including Alberta Avenue, Beacon Heights, Bellevue, Beverly Heights, Boyle Street, Cromdale, Eastwood, Highlands, Lauderdale, McCauley, Montrose, Newton, Parkdale, Rundle Heights and Virginia Park.
We know Edmonton has a shiny new downtown arena, built with taxpayers dollars, replacing the legendary Rexall Place that was operated successfully by Northlands.
We as a city owe it to residents in those communities to buy into the vision Northlands has come up with for its 160-acre campus that includes Rexall Place, Northlands Race Track and Casino and the Edmonton Expo Centre conference facility.
That vision includes turning Rexall Place into a multiple ice-surface facility, expanding the Expo Centre, building a new, small concert facility and putting in housing.
Not doing so means: There goes the neighbourhood(s)! Reports show dire consequences if we don’t get this right.
Failure to develop the Northlands site would reduce property values by up to 10% — homes that hard-working north-side Edmontonians invested their life savings in. This scenario would see the City’s residential assessment base shrink by up to $125 million.
The City of Edmonton has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in other sectors of the city including the downtown, Blatchford (the old City Centre Airport) and The Quarters. The Northlands area communities deserve the same benefit.
Indeed, when Edmonton city council agreed to construct the downtown arena it bought into the theory that the project would revitalize the downtown. Shouldn’t our communities surrounding the Northlands campus receive a similar benefit?
Those communities include Edmonton’s largest population of indigenous people and scores of new Canadians including a sizeable Somali community who live there and are trying to build new lives in this great city of ours.
This area also includes a thriving arts community centred on 118 Avenue that has breathed new life into old buildings. They have succeeded remarkably. I have to note that when we were looking to rent a constituency office for our federal riding of Edmonton Griesbach, the redevelopment of 118 Avenue has been so successful we could not find a single suitable space there. That’s actually good news.
This area is not a home to big-box stores or fancy corporate offices. It’s filled with small mom-and-pop businesses eking out an income in the shadow of Rexall Place. These folks deserve our support.
Some pundits are saying Northlands plan is too ambitious, there’s not a suitable business plan. It costs too much money. As a fiscal conservative, former city councillor and the Official Opposition’s deputy Urban Affairs critic, I sympathize with concerns about finances.
That said, where was the business plan when city council decided to close down City Centre Airport to build what was pitched as the ultra-green, eco-friendly Blatchford development? Latest plans there have deeply scaled back the so-called green initiatives. Where was the business case for that development?
The City of Edmonton went gung-ho on that plan regardless. Northlands Vision 2020, however makes good sense and is well thought out.
The not-for-profit, 137-year-old organization was forced out of the business of running major sporting events and large concerts with the approval of the new Rogers Centre arena downtown. That’s despite the fact the organization did an admirable, world-class job of those duties. Indeed Rexall, under Northlands management, was listed as the 27th busiest arena (indoors or outdoors) in the world!
Northlands and the tens of thousands of residents surrounding the 160-acre site deserve to have the City of Edmonton buy into a plan that would see Rexall turned into a six-sheet hockey tournament facility, an expansion of Hall D at the Expo Centre to allow 5,000-seats for hockey as well as rodeo, concerts and other events. It also calls for an outdoor festival site where the racetrack and casino is today as well as residential and retail development.
There’s been talk that the Edmonton Expo Centre doesn’t break even. Well, conference centres throughout North America tend to not break even. It’s the economic spinoffs that bring millions to cities by hosting events at them.
This is an ideal campus for urban renewal. It’s a stone’s throw from our downtown. It’s served by an existing station on a high-speed LRT line. It’s adjacent to Yellowhead Trail and has tons of parking.
A special city council public hearing takes place Wednesday Aug. 31 and I intend to be there in person speaking up for the vital north-side project.
If you’re a resident in the area or you own a business there, you too have a right to speak about this. If you care about thriving, sustainable neighbourhoods, please have your say. Tell city council what you think. Get on the speakers list to have your five minutes. Call the City Clerk’s office at (780) 496-8178 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To see more details about the thoughtful development, Vision 2020, go here:
Let’s make sure our north-side residents get the development they deserve. As your Conservative Member of Parliament I will fight to see we get this development done and done right.
(Comments? Questions? E-mail me at: email@example.com)
Our thoughts and prayers remain with all those affected by the Fort McMurray wildfire.
Last Friday, my colleagues and interim-leader Rona Ambrose joined me for the day on a tour of Fort McMurray wildfire relief centres in Edmonton Griesbach.
We visited Northlands Expo Centre and Edmonton Emergency Relief Services, meeting with many victims and volunteers of this natural disaster.
I was encouraged to see our community rallying together to support those affected by the wildfire. Thank you to all the donors, volunteers and businesses that have stepped up to help. You make us all proud!