As a parent with two younger children, I believe that every child deserves a strong start in life. In fact, there is an abundance of research suggesting that much of a child’s health, wellbeing and success are shaped by the early years of life. That is why I have been an advocate for strong early years initiatives. In particular, I was involved in the development of the South West Edmonton Early Childhood Development Coalition.
Mature neighbourhoods for all ages
Part of my vision for strengthening mature neighbourhoods is to rehabilitate under-utilized spaces and make them available for childcare and early learning opportunities. We have opportunities to create spaces for recreation, leisure and family-oriented services. These include walkable amenities, quality green spaces, and the development of local businesses. And importantly, I will collaborate with local school trustees to ensure neighbourhood schools stay open and are fully utilized. I strongly believe in promoting connectivity amongst neighbours and families, and enriching experiences for children in their early years. These kinds of investments save tremendous costs for society in the long run and create huge advantages for families.
We’ve gotten part of it right already
The City of Edmonton has already taken some excellent steps towards supporting young children and families. Our green shack program is highly regarded and many parents appreciate how it provides their children with an opportunity to engage in fun and creative activities, and meet new friends during their summer break. But recent cuts to this program means City Council needs to explore alternative funding sources that will keep this program going. I also support the current Leisure Access Program, which helps low income families access the City’s recreation and leisure centres.
What’s next for Ward 10
We need to capitalize on the findings of the University of Alberta’s Early Child Development Mapping Project (ECMAP), which are giving us data on the childhood development outcomes in our city. They are finding that a child’s development is not necessarily tied to the wealth of the neighbourhood, but to the parents’ ability to access early childhood development resources.
We should also explore integrated childcare spaces and seniors housing. Some jurisdictions have already experimented with these types of common sense arrangements. Especially in a neighbourhood where both of these are lacking, it is prudent to see how we can incorporate this.
I am also keen to begin working with the communities of Allendale, Empire Park, Parkallen and Pleasantview where childcare and after school care are lacking and where recreation centres, pools and arena facilities are aging. We have a huge opportunity to plan and build something better and new for this part of Edmonton.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. Well, strong childhood development outcomes require community support and leadership. I believe that we have the right tools and vision to make this a reality.