Urban planner arrives to help delve a century into city's future

Iqaluit's next 100 years


Imagining what Iqaluit would look like in 100 years might bring to mind hover-cars or robot servants, but for Isabel Budke, it's serious business.

Budke is an urban planner with the International Centre for Sustainable Cities, based in Vancouver, who's been hired by the city of Iqaluit to guide the city's baby steps in long-term planning.

Her job is to generate public interest in the process and catalogue the ideas generated from public meetings, or even by simply chatting with people she encounters around town.

"I would like to speak with people one-on-one, in groups, and wherever people are when they're (relaxing), when they're sitting in a coffee shop, when they're working."

She also wants to lay the groundwork for a permanent "sustainability coordinator" who will take over when Budke is gone.

"It's a process that will take one or two years," Budke said. "We have to be prepared that we can't see results in four months necessarily [though] we'll hopefully see some."

The ICSC is affiliated with the Plus Network, an international group of cities of which Iqaluit is a member. The group's 28 cities commit to adopting sustainable long-term planning projects.

Elisapee Sheutiapik, Iqaluit's mayor, got exposed to long-term planning attending national meetings with southern municipalities like Calgary and Whistler, British Columbia, which had already started their own planning projects. She's been singing the praises of planning ever since.

"I think my jaw dropped. I couldn't imagine that long of a vision," she said. It didn't help that capital funding agreements with the Government of Nunavut last for five years and the term of a municipal politician, at three years, is even shorter.

"It's a mixture of people here now. [We're] trying to accommodate people who've been here forever and those making Iqaluit a home," Sheutiapik said. "I thought this is a great opportunity to pull everyone together and get one vision."

Ken Melamed, the mayor of Whistler, said long-term planning helps "provide political stability to a town."

"It really grounds us as a community," he said. "I get the sense that we will have better political continuity and a greater sense of purpose which saves all of us time, money [and] energy."

Melamed said his community embraced the planning process and generated ideas about how to deal with the impact of the 2010 Winter Olympics, which Whistler will co-host with Vancouver. Part of the town's official plan calls for the athlete's village to become affordable housing after the games. Another seeks to reduce the environmental impact of the games.

While Sheutiapik has her own wish list for Iqaluit that's heavy on new recreation facilities, she's confident consultations with citizens, civic groups and other levels of government will yield new ideas and partnerships.

"I've always said this long-term planning is not going to happen if the community's not involved."

But neither the mayor nor Budke could give a date for the start of public meetings on the planning process.

Budke's tenure nearly didn't happen. Sheutiapik and deputy mayor Al Hayward had to push Budke's hiring past a reluctant city council last month.

Coun. Claude Martel argued the cost – $58,000, including salary plus room and board – was too much, and Coun. Jim Little objected to hiring "some outsider" to do the work.

Budke's confident she'll be able to win over some, if not all, of the skeptics in time.

She organized a meeting here in March that featured Melamed and city staff from Calgary who shared their cities' experiences with the planning process and collected names of Iqalummiut who are interested in getting involved.

"I think those are the people we need to start with," she said. "Those are the people that can be the champions. And I think it's a natural process that the skeptics will start to observe what's happening… and either buy in or remain skeptical."

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