Councillor Ben Henderson confirms he will not be running for reelection in October

I am confirming today that I will not be running for reelection to Edmonton City Council in the fall. After fourteen years I feel it is time to step aside and make room for new energy on Council. I have greatly enjoyed my time serving the people of Edmonton and residents of the old ward four, and since 2010 ward eight, but the time has come to explore new pursuits.

It is always an interesting exercise to look back over a period like this and, although at times it feels like just yesterday that I was arriving at City Hall, I look back on what has changed in the ensuing years and I realize that our city has travelled a great distance.

When I arrived the LRT stopped at Health Sciences, the bike grid was a few painted lines faded with time, neighbourhood renewal was creeping along at a snail’s pace and our city’s infrastructure was in woeful shape. Any work we did on roads just replaced what we had and there was little thought to use the opportunity of renewal to improve our City. Transportation safety was largely focused on the movement of vehicles with secondary thought to the pedestrian and the cyclist. The City was regularly tearing itself apart debating the future of the municipal airport and no recreation centres had been built in decades.

There are some very specific endeavours that I take great pride in. My work leading the winter city initiative led to the creation of our Winter City Strategy which has transformed the way we enjoy our city in winter and has won us international recognition. Our city sees just as many festivals now in winter as in summer and thousands of people now enjoy Zoominescence, Deep Freeze, Ice on Whyte, Le Canoe Volant, and the substantially expanded Silver Skate. They are joined by numerous community events across our City. Our parks and outdoor spaces are now fully supported and operational in the winter with increased opportunities for nordic ski, skating or just enjoying a walk or a run along our multi-use trails. As we continue to build our City the Winter City Design Guidelines are now a key document in ensuring our public spaces, streets and building are inviting and enjoyable in all seasons. And you can now enjoy that latte or brew on a patio all year round.

I also spearheaded the City’s innovative review of its public engagement practice which has led to our internationally recognized Public Engagement Strategy. Although it will always be and must continue to be an exercise in continuous improvement, it is now well imbedded in the way we connect with citizens and ensure that our projects truly understand and support the communities they serve.

As a determined advocate for active transportation I am also proud of the huge strides we have made in creating safe and convenient infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists alike. The significant increase in those making the choice to travel by active means is directly attributable to the significant separated grid that we have solidly established in the core of our city and are now expanding outwards for all Edmontonians.

And finally, I also take pride in initiating and championing the work that created End Poverty Edmonton, our commitment to end poverty in a generation in our city. Although it is still an uphill battle, the commitment to deal with the root causes of intergenerational poverty, rather than just to apply bandaids to the wounds of poverty, gives us a real shot at making a difference in an age-old challenge.

There are other small things that I look back on with joy, such as pushing for the programming of Churchill Square that allowed us to truly benefit from the investment made in the rebuilding of the square; leading the charge to close the road that bisected the square and allowed City Hall and its fountain and ice rink to connect with the rest of the square; finally getting the green light for the multi-use trail that uses the old rail right-of-way to connect Old Strathcona with the High Level Bridge; standing up for the building of the funicular that means that citizens of all abilities can access the river valley without the need of a car; and being a stubborn voice to ensure that the new Walterdale Bridge would rise above the mundane design of its predecessors.

Some of my work is incomplete although we are poised to make huge strides, such as our ongoing leadership meeting the challenge of climate change and the energy transition that will be necessary. But much as I would like to continue to push the City forward from my seat on Council on areas like these it is time for someone else to take on those challenges, and I have every belief that a decade and a half from now they will be able to look back with just as much satisfaction for what they have accomplished in continuing to move our City forward.

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Transit Fare Policy

Transit Fare Policy

We have heard a lot of concern about the changes in seniors transit fares and I know it will be hard on some people.  We had to make adjustments in order to offer fully free transit for low-income seniors; those who need it most but can least afford it.  I know the adjustment to the fare price of a senior annual pass was an abrupt change and that has caused worry for some who are on a fixed income.  I appreciate hearing from you and want you to know why these changes were done.

This was not an easy decision for Council to make; however, anyone over 65 years of age is still eligible for discounted fares.   The new $34 monthly senior pass and the $374 annual pass represents a reduction of about 65% of the regular adult fare.  For more occasional users of ETS we have lowered the price of the senior 10-ticket pack from $23 to $19 making that option a little more attractive.

The City continues to fund more than half of transit operating costs through taxes and other revenue, with paid fares covering about half of the costs. For a number of years, we were able to provide a very low cost annual pass for seniors, but continuing that and offering the free passes for those in greatest need meant other transit riders or taxes would have to supplement more of the cost.

Public transportation is an essential service and a way for people to keep connected, involved, and mobile.  I know for many seniors, this is their only way to get around.   The new policy brings seniors fares in line with the other deepest discount, the Ride Transit Program for low-income adults.  The Province helps with the funding for the Ride Transit Program, but does not contribute funding for the senior pass.

We knew it was not sustainable to offer the level of discount we had offered before, provide the free passes for low income seniors and keep the seniors annual pass at the former price level. Edmontonians told us they wanted to continue to offer discounts to seniors, low-income earners, students, and people with disabilities. We asked Edmontonians what would be fair in aligning those discounts and the proposed fare structure reflects their response.

There are other measures also coming in the future that will help. Options like fare capping and pay-as-you-go will be in place with the launch of the Smart Fare system that will be coming next year.  Fare capping can be used instead of a monthly pass. Essentially your Smart Fare card would continue to add fares as you used transit until it met the amount of the senior monthly pass. At that point, any further rides would be essentially free for that month. So you would still have the benefit of a monthly pass but if you travelled less than the monthly pass would have cost you then you would save money in that month. Based on how much you use the service and how regularly, this may in fact get you closer to the price of the old annual pass.

As always, I welcome your feedback and input on our transit goals, and any other city matter. Please feel free to contact me at (780)496-8146, or @ben_hen on Twitter.


Posted in Budget, Community, Public Involvement, Seniors, Transit | Comments Off

Waste Management Strategy

This month, Council approved the City’s new Waste Management Strategy, which will transform the way we manage waste over the next 25 years. The recommendations outlined in the strategy will be phased in over the next few years, and will play an integral role as we continue our goal of diverting 90 per cent of our city’s waste from landfills.

The biggest difference residents will experience will be the shift to sorting waste at home. This initiative is slated to begin in late 2020 for detached and single-family homes. Each household will receive a green cart for organics, leaves, grass clippings and other compostable yard waste, as well as a black cart for anything that doesn’t belong in organics or recycling. These two-wheeled carts have secure lids and comfortable handles, making them easy to move and keeping their contents safe from animals. The collection of recycling and the use of blue bags will not change and will continue to be picked up weekly.

Green carts will be collected weekly in spring through fall, with bi-weekly collection in the winter months. There will be additional collection days to help manage seasonal increases in organic waste during spring and fall yard clean up times. Black carts will be collected on a biweekly basis, and residents can choose from either a 120-litre (2-3 bags) or 240-litre (4-6 bags) black cart.  In order to be able to meet our waste diversion goals, we appreciate you separating organic waste like food scraps from other types of waste. This at-home sorting system will help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the Edmonton Waste Management Centre.

In preparation for the city-wide use of this new system, the cart system is currently being piloted in 8,000 Edmonton households. This pilot has been successful so far, and has enabled Administration to address real-time issues while preparing for a smooth city-wide roll out.

The guidelines and recommendations outlined in the Waste Management Strategy will help us move towards our goal of Climate Resilience, and will help to create a greener future for Edmonton.


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Urban Trees

Often when we think about planning a city, we focus on elements such as roads, bridges, transit and buildings. We think about how we can shape the world around us to better suit our needs, but we cannot overlook the natural world and the impact it has on us individually and on our city as a whole.

For years, researchers have been telling us about the benefits of nature, and specifically trees, in our urban landscape. The most obvious being the reduction of CO2 gases and other pollutants that contribute to adverse health outcomes and also climate change. But what is not discussed as regularly are the many other positives that come with tree-lined streets, parks and valleys.

Trees reduce noise pollution, they are a natural way to keep our homes and streets cool which in turn can save us all money, and they can improve street safety by making roads appear narrower which tends to slow the speed of vehicles.  Trees prevent soil erosion, act as a shield against wind and snow, provide shelter for wildlife and help to beautify our neighbourhoods. There is strong evidence that access to rich urban forests is a contributing factor to healthier cities due to their stress-relieving effects.

Whether you’re looking at the benefit of trees from the perspective of individual health or the well-being of our city, urban forestry has shown its worth. The City of Edmonton’s Urban Forestry Program is responsible for more than one million trees and takes great care evaluating plant diversity and hardiness as well as working to ensure our city flourishes for years to come.  Edmonton is one of very few North American cities to mainly escape the ravages of Dutch Elm disease.

Urban Forestry assists residents by providing education on the pruning and planting of trees and operates the Old Man Creek Nursery. The Nursery was established in 1910, and on average handles 3,000 trees, 100,000 pieces of naturalized plants and over 3,500 shrubs annually. The City also runs our Roots for Trees program that partners with businesses, residents and community groups to help plant an additional 45,000 trees each year.

The benefit of urban trees and our urban forests cannot be understated. They save us money, keep us healthier and contribute to our overall happiness.

As always, I welcome your input on this and any other city matter. Please feel free to contact me at (780)496-8146, or @ben_hen on Twitter.


Posted in Community, Mature Neighbourhoods, Parks | Comments Off

REACH for Safe Communities

For nearly 10 years, REACH Edmonton Council for Safe Communities has been working diligently to find ways to address the root causes of crime and help build safer communities. What started as a City initiative under Mayor Steven Mandel with a small taskforce has grown into a vital organization that is successfully advocating for our city’s most vulnerable populations.

The taskforce created the REACH Report, which included nine recommendations that focused on investing in youth and children, driving change in the coordination and delivery of programs to reduce crime, and seeking out and developing community leaders who support and promote prevention.

Today REACH mobilizes and coordinates organizations, community groups and Edmontonians to find and implement innovative solutions for crime prevention and community safety. In addition to pursuing the nine recommendations, REACH works with its partners on a number of support initiatives and programs.

Wraparound Edmonton, or WrapED, is a partnership of six Edmonton organizations working to help young people (ages 12 to 17) affected by violent crime move away from the threat of gangs and learn to thrive in our community.

The REACH Immigrant and Refugee Initiative (RIRI) works to ensure cultural and ethnic groups are engaged in community safety issues and practices, and feel a stronger sense of community and individual voice and empowerment.

All In For Youth (AIFY) is a first-of-its-kind initiative that brings together programs and services to help every child achieve their best, by providing support to youth and their families.

REACH is also developing a comprehensive, coordinated response to at-risk populations who need 24 hour access to services. They are a key part of the 24/7 Crisis Diversion Team and are partnering in a new pilot project, The Ambassador Program, that places teams in the city’s core to educate and connect individuals to services and resources.

REACH also provides a wide range of training for front-line workers, supervisors, law enforcement, social workers and others regarding best practices for working with vulnerable people and diverse populations. The training helps participants be culturally sensitive and understand how trauma can affect individuals.

REACH is an impressive and vitally important organization that works tirelessly to address the root causes of crime and dysfunction in our city. They rely heavily on community involvement and participation across all levels of government, public and private enterprise and communities. For more information about the remarkable contributions they are making to Edmonton, visit


Posted in Community, Safety, Wellness, Youth | Comments Off

Urban Wellness and the work of RECOVER

Urban Wellness and the work of “Recover”

When it comes to having a city that we are proud to call home there are many aspects to consider. It is not just about buildings and roads; it is about people and community.

In the last few years, a new initiative called RECOVER: Edmonton’s Urban Wellness Plan kicked off as a way to improve the wellness of those living in five central neighbourhoods, namely Boyle Street, Central McDougall, Downtown, McCauley and Queen Mary Park.  Following the success of the work downtown, RECOVER has begun work in Old Strathcona.

The goal of RECOVER is to bring together diverse perspectives on urban wellness and develop partnerships to create simple, long-lasting changes that benefit everyone in those areas. RECOVER utilizes social innovation as a means to deal with the intricacies of having higher rates of homelessness, complex mental health needs, and addictions.   Simply put, it is about creating and implementing resourceful and unique solutions.

Central to social innovation is a need for collaboration between different groups. For RECOVER, the focus has been on creating trust and partnership between all orders of government, social agencies, businesses, area residents, and regular visitors to the area.

One of the notable projects was Project Welcome Mat, which made small improvements outside of Boyle Street Community Services to create a more inviting and comfortable public space to gather. The results were almost immediate with the entire tone of the area shifting to become more people-friendly.

Since July 2017 when these solutions started to take form, the landscape of these five communities has already changed. There are more services available, greater community cohesion and new people coming into the communities. RECOVER is a great example of Edmonton coming together to create positive and tangible changes that will have a long lasting impact for all of us.  I am very excited it is expanding to the south side to understand and meet the needs of all its people.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and questions on this or other City issues. Connect with me at or 780-496-8146, or follow me on Twitter @ben_hen.


Posted in Mental Health, Wellness | Comments Off


March 2019

Benefits of Composting

According to Environment Canada, biodegradable materials, such as food waste, make up around 40 per cent of all residential waste in Canada. As we continue to place an increasingly higher importance on sustainability and living in an environmentally conscious way, there are a number of simple steps we can take to decrease our impact.

One of the simplest things we can do is reduce the amount of waste that gets picked up, hauled to transfer stations, processed and taken to landfills and composting facilities. When individuals make a small effort to separate organic matter, it opens up room for the City to develop a better system that can more efficiently divert and handle our waste.

Composting is actually quite a simple, straightforward process. Instead of dropping your kitchen scraps into the trash with the rest of your household waste, collect them in a separate container and transfer them to a compost bin that you tend to every so often. If done right you won’t notice an odour, and it requires minimal investment of time and money on your behalf. Some neighbourhoods even have compost collection stations in their community gardens you can add to.

This minor change can not only reduce the burden on the City’s waste system and positively impact the environment, it has the potential to save the City millions of dollars that can be used for other vital programs. In an effort to make composting as easy as possible the City has a number of online resources at that describe how to start, what you can and can’t compost and tips to ensure success.

The City also offers hands-on workshops where you can learn everything you need to know about composting. Should you need some help along the way, we’ve gathered a team of Master Composter

Recycler volunteers who have extensive training and are passionate about waste reduction, sustainability and composting. Master Composter Recyclers are reliable and friendly Edmontonians who are excited about helping others with composting and waste reduction.

When we look at the big picture it is simple to see how a few small changes in each of our households could result in an impressive shift for our city. By rerouting 30 to 40 per cent of our organic waste away from our landfills we can save money, add life to our community gardens and build a more sustainable future.

Please feel free to contact me anytime at or by telephone at 780-496-8146.

Follow me on Twitter@ben_hen



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Densification in mature neighbourhoods

Garden suites

In recent years, you have probably heard about the desire to keep our core neighbourhoods vital, attractive, and sustainable.  Densification and residential infill in older parts of the city are steps we can take to help make sure services and amenities remain where they are needed to serve people in mature communities.  These steps mean not only bringing new people into neighbourhoods, but helping people stay in the community they love.

The evolution of housing types, and amendments to the City’s zoning bylaw, create more opportunities for affordable living in mature areas.   With changes to regulations for Garden Suites, property owners and renters have more choices available.  But what is a Garden Suite?   In the past, what was known as a Carriage House, Garage Suite, or Laneway House would now be called a Garden Suite.  The suite may be a second storey above a garage, a standalone building, or even a self-contained Tiny Home.

Garden suites can be an income source or a way for residents to stay in their community.  You may see multiple generations residing on the same property, but with completely separate living quarters.  Many people have built suites for older family members so seniors can continue to live on their property and have family support at hand.  Keeping families together and connected combats the risk of isolation and loneliness that too many people face.  The zoning bylaw regulations are adapting with consideration of accessibility needs without unduly limiting the actual living space giving people with mobility issues another housing option.

There are challenges when building in established zones.  We need to balance respect for neighbours with the want for increased population.  Keeping privacy and enjoyment of one’s property in mind, changes to the regulations require minimum setback distances, strategic window placement, and disallow rooftop terraces on garden suites.

With input from the Edmonton Design Committee and public feedback, the City continues to make progressive changes to the rules that govern the development of Garden Suites.  I am delighted to see new people connecting with established residents and becoming a part of their new, inclusive community.

Please feel free to contact me anytime at or by telephone at 780-496-8146.

Follow me on Twitter@ben_hen


Posted in Densification, Mature Neighbourhoods, Sustainability | Comments Off

Award for Public Engagement

Edmonton Wins International Award

One of the most important elements of a productive and valuable democracy that serves the best interest of its people is an actively engaged public body. Unfortunately, for years many Edmontonians had lost faith in how the City was engaging the public. Even if we were asking the right questions, there often were not measures in place to make sure the responses were used appropriately.

In 2014, Council kicked off an initiative to restore trust through better public consultation, and, more importantly, to create a system where feedback is collected and used efficiently and reliably. Since 2014 the Council Initiative on Public Engagement has taken a “begin from the beginning” approach to break down what good engagement looks like, how it operates and what the outcomes are.

This initiative has resulted in an extensive 27-item action plan, a new public engagement strategy and a dedicated team (the Guiding Coalition on Public Engagement) to ensure accountability and transparency in our engagement process.

The Guiding Coalition is made up of diverse people with a keen interest in the relationship between governance and public engagement, and has proved to be invaluable to the initiative’s success.

Today, I am proud to share with you that the Council Initiative on Public Engagement has been recognized internationally. On October 24, 2018, the City of Edmonton was named the 2018 International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) International Organization of the Year at the Australasia IAP2 Conference.

It’s been a pleasure to be a part of this process along with fellow Councillors Michael Walters and Andrew Knack. We pushed to have Council adopt the initiative and have witnessed thousands of passionate Edmontonians step up to give their time and ideas to creating a better future for our city.

We recognize there is still a lot of work to be done but the coalition now has the tools to move forward.  Hopefully you will be able to continue to engage with us, and feel confident knowing that your input is not only valuable, but an integral part of our decision making process.

Please feel free to contact me anytime at or at 780-496-8146. Follow me on Twitter@ben_hen


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Books and Budgets

Books and Budgets

I am happy to share some good news with everyone.  The eagerly anticipated new Capilano Branch of Edmonton Public Library is finally open.  The Grand Opening is planned for November 23 at 10:30 am and I look forward to seeing you in our new, beautiful, and accessible building at 9915-67 Street.

In budget news for Ward 8, both the Rollie Miles Athletic Field District Park Renewal and the 101 Avenue Streetscape projects are in the proposed Capital Budget.  These projects are currently unfunded and will be part of the dialog during Council budget deliberations.  I hope to get support for the next phase of the Rollie Miles Leisure Centre and Park: concept planning and design.  That way it could be considered for construction in the next Capital Budget cycle.

My intention is to push for funding to keep the planning and design work going on the 101 Avenue project so it is ready for when the rebuild of the roadway can begin.  The community has worked very hard on this and I do not want to see it lose momentum.

Including a shared-use path from Gateway Boulevard to 107 Street, along the rail line the Street Car uses, in the proposed South Side Bike Grid would help advance work on this long awaited route.

Folks who use the Strathcona 55 Plus Seniors Facility know the building has space and accessibility limitations for its users.  I am determined to keep the conversation alive on planning for a new facility.

City Council will start weighing priorities on November 28 at 9:30 am in Council Chambers.  Members of the public are welcome to attend or you could watch the proceedings through the Council On The Web live streaming service.

Please feel free to contact me anytime at or at 780-496-8146. Follow me on Twitter@ben_hen



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