Get to Know Who's Running: Glynnis Lieb (Ward Ipiihkoohkanipiaohtsi)
GL/ Edmonton is a wonderful city. It is the progressive hub of Alberta. It has so much potential. Yet, we are being slowed in our progress by continuing to populate leadership positions with people for whom the system has always worked and are content to keep doing things the same way they’ve always been done, even if they don’t work for everyone else.
The past few years have seen so much of what we were accustomed to be shaken up and challenged. We have seen the thin guise of civility torn off and the not-so-pretty truth of the extent to which social inequity still exists be shown. We have also had our ways of life, our work, and our interactions be probably forever changed.
I believe that people are frustrated and anxious and fed up with doing things the same ways that just aren’t working. Now is the time to make bold changes that we know will make our city stronger and our neighbourhoods a more vibrant, rewarding home for ALL residents.
I decided that, instead of desperately hoping that someone would step up and run as a voice for working families and people who never get seriously prioritized, I would step up and be that person.
GL/ As a child, my family and I were, at times, dependent on Social Services as well as the good graces of people with whom we came into contact such as law-enforcement, educators, front line service providers. I went on to work within Social Services as well as for not-for-profit organizations that provide Social and Health services, with a focus on mental health and addiction. I have worked primarily with people who governments tend to talk about, not to. These are valuable and contributing members of our communities but they are not getting seriously considered, let alone included.
I have been thoroughly frustrated by the relentless push to continue to work inside the box. Services and people who don’t flex to meet the unique experiences and needs of the people they serve render themselves ineffective. We need a City Council that has its finger on the pulse of the city and adapts to meet the demands of today. Generating endless administrative reports doesn’t have to be the standard practice.
I have lived in three provinces and have now been in Edmonton for many years. I have the benefit of having experienced life in multiple cities and communities, working for public services and teaching in different provinces. I can see the way things are done differently from one place to the next and what ideas work.I am a Social Psychologist by trade. I have studied the relationships between people and the environment for 20 years. I have also taught in this field for almost 15 years. I know what the pertinent needs of communities are in order to help them thrive. I also know what doesn’t work. Through everything that I have learned and experienced in my education, career, and in my own life, I am absolutely convinced that we will only succeed if we build communities that are strong and engaged rather than fostering dependence on systems and services. And I am well equipped to help do just that.
GL/ I am in the process of consulting with Ward residents, and they will direct my ultimate prioritization of issues because I am here to fight for them and make sure they have what they need from their city. I bring a lot of passion about a lot of issues to this conversation and a number of themes have emerged through my conversation with residents that I care deeply about in relation to my life and work:
1. Accessible Housing: For as long as I have been paying attention to experiences of people and how governments respond to them (this includes my own experiences and childhood of desperately needing housing), I have listened to governments wax lyrical about the tragedy of homelessness and the priority of addressing homelessness. Yet, I’ve seen precious little change in all these years. We know how to address houselessness and housing insecurity. We just need people in elected office who truly want to change it. Who truly do see the people who are struggling as valuable and deserving of secure housing
2. Accessible Public Transit: The linchpin of any healthy city that prioritizes inclusion and helping people live to their best potential is quality, plentiful, affordable public transit. We need to ensure that all corners of this city are well serviced by transit. We also need to do better in making transit financially accessible for the people who need it most. In an ideal scenario, that would be fair free transit. At the very least, there should be sliding-scale fare options that do not further penalize Edmontonians with the least disposable income. But, first and foremost, transit needs to be safe, accessible, and efficient at getting people where they need to go.
3. Maintaining Public Services: The tired yet clung-to way of responding to tougher financial times is to cut public services and frontline workers. These are the expenses that cost the least but make the most impact on the quality of life for Edmontonians.
Having been a researcher and managing not-for-profits as well as volunteering for charitable organizations, I have spent my whole adult life having to find money and manage creatively within tight budgets.
There are ways that we can do better. For example, there are expenses resulting from inefficient contracts and unnecessary consultant fees that we could reduce to prioritize services that allow frontline workers to keep their jobs and city residents to enjoy good recreation and public services.
4. Systemic Inequities: We need to take a good hard look at how this municipal government works. We need to specifically look at what makes it more difficult for Edmontonians to access services and supports, experience a good quality of life, and participate in government.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations, the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry, the COVID pandemic and the events leading to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement have shown us how deeply ingrained in our social and systemic fabric racism and inequities are. The times of wearing pins and bracelets and thinking our work is done are passed. We need to do things differently.
5. Climate: We need to be responsible about the decisions we make and choose climate health wherever possible instead of cutting corners or letting the problem keep getting more expensive. There’s undisputed scientific evidence that we are on a fast track towards climate catastrophe if we do not drastically change how we live and function. I believe we need to do ALL aspects of our work under advisement of Indigenous Knowledge Keepers and climate experts.
GL/ Ipiiihkoohkanipiaohtsi is a suburban ward, and I feel that such wards often get overlooked in larger conversations about social issues in the health, well-being and productivity of Edmonton.
I recently held an online townhall for residents. I was very struck by how the conversation kept returning to issues related to mental illness and addiction. Residents spoke about the struggles that people are having and the lack of support and understanding and the stigma that still exists. The reality with more suburban wards is that people’s struggles in this regard are often hidden behind closed doors rather than out in public places for people to see. So, it’s very easy to forget that the struggles exist here too. We need to do a better job of providing options for support and crisis management.
Another issue that again is less visible but every bit as critical in this ward is housing and food insecurity. This is a ward full of working people; young working families, people new to Canada, people moving into retirement. We are facing more difficult economic times. People are struggling to pay their mortgages or rent. People are struggling to keep food in the fridge. We need to encourage community participation in reaching out for support and supporting those in need. We need to provide options to ensure that our children are not going to school hungry.
Finally, I want to increase the number of gathering places in this ward. Communities are strengthened when there are opportunities provided for residents to get to know each other and to actively engage. I would like to see more recreation options and even coffee shops and local music and other recreation venues. These are the things that make neighbourhoods fun and attractive and act as economic and social stimulants.
GL/ Residents in some parts of this ward have been very vocal about protecting natural green spaces. I think it’s very important to continue to incorporate natural green spaces into our communities.
I’m also a lifelong lover of the arts, and a true believer in what they contribute to society and to maintaining or rebuilding healthy communities. I have been fortunate to be part of the Arts on the Avenue Society (AOTA) here in Edmonton and to learn what makes communities vibrant. Seeing how they have used the arts to build community pride, to help communities get to know each other and to promote local artists performers and artisans while always focussing on the greater social good has been very encouraging.
I am also very happy that the City is making attempts to actively act on the TRC recommendations and to honour the Indigenous history of this land that we are on. We need to continue to do better in this regard; to build on the momentum that is starting and get beyond niceties, to action. I am an absolute supporter of the recent motion that passed to create an Urban Reserve. I think that we need to be relentless in our advocacy for equity, making reparations by making space for Indigenous peoples and other ethnocultural people who we have not properly included until now.
GL/ I strongly disagree with privatization and contracting out of public services. There is no bona fide research that shows that this option ever ends up being fiscally beneficial…quite the opposite, in fact. It removes the connection to community in that contractors often aren’t from the communities they serve and are not personally emotionally invested in them. Whereas public sector workers are typically more accountable and proud of their service to the public.
Along these lines, I do not agree with the City’s current approach to procurement and how Community Benefit Agreements (CBAs) have been watered down One of the things that I will advocate for is stronger local benefits when land development and other decisions that impact communities are being made. This is an opportunity to keep money in our city and create more local jobs.
I am a researcher as part of my profession and I always look for clear definitions and measurements and I just don’t see that, currently. We need to do better by defining who our communities of interest are for specific projects and ensuring that they actually do receive benefit from those projects.
I also struggle with money being spent on “gimmicky” things such as adding picnic benches and temporary blockades to part of Jasper Avenue or the Funicular. What communities really need are quality recreational services, access to public libraries, access to transit, and social support.
GL/ As a general rule, no. If you accept the role as a public figure and engage on social media, you have a responsibility to hear from everybody, even if you don’t like the message.
Of course, the obvious exception would be if somebody is spreading hate speech, threatening, harassing, or stalking you. In such situations, blocking them would be understandable.
GL/ This is a difficult and emotionally charged time and, of course, hindsight is 20/20. So, it is easy for us to criticize decisions that have to be made, especially if we weren’t the ones who had to make them. Thus, I try to be very gracious when it comes to assessing the responses that have been made.
That said, I do believe that errors in judgement have been made. The widely perceived undue pressure put on our Chief Public Health Officer, particularly early on, by the Health Minister and Premier impeded efforts to stop the spread. I do believe that the interests of vocal lobbyists were prioritized in the decisions that were made when public safety should have been.
I also cannot excuse the uncalled for and extremely ill-timed fight that the provincial government picked with doctors and other health service providers. Tearing up contracts, budget cuts along with threats of pay cuts, layoffs, and contracting out of critical support services during a worldwide health crisis is shockingly irresponsible.
I am very happy that the city implemented a mask bylaw for indoor spaces and public transportation.
GL/ It’s difficult to choose just one thing! I love the fact that this city has the charm of a small town at the same time have a cosmopolitan air. I love that I run into people I know in different spaces and meet friendly people on the streets. I also love that I can experience arts and cultural events that are extraordinary. I love, for example, that our Fringe Festival is rated second in the world next to the original festival in Edinburgh.
GL/ Open, determined, ethical, optimistic, loyal.