Honoured to receive the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal

On November 14th, 2012, I was honoured to receive the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal from Premier Redford and Lieutenant Governor Donald Ethell.

I was honoured to share a special afternoon with the other recipients. They represented quite a cross-section of Albertan society and I’m sure their families and friends are very proud. I’ve posted the names of the other Edmonton winners below. Congratulations everyone!


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Honoured to be selected as one of Edmonton's "Top 40 Under 40

Last week I was honoured by Avenue Edmonton as one of their “Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40” for 2012.

You can read the full article here:


Thank you to the Avenue Edmonton Team, 3Ten Photo, Cheryl Mahaffy and the anonymous nominators who put my name forward to receive this award.

Online Voting has exciting potential for civic engagement in Edmonton

The City of Edmonton is evaluating the feasibility of implementing online voting for the October 21st 2013 Municipal Election.

I think this is exciting news, and could significantly impact voter turnout and civic engagement.

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Top 10 things I loved about working at the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues

As many of you know, in addition to being the Ward F Edmonton Public School Trustee, I’ve been employed as the Marketing Director for the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL).

Sadly, as of August 31st 2012, I will be leaving the EFCL.

If you are looking for purposeful, flexible work that has you doing real projects to make our city better, I urge you to apply for this job.

I’ve been paid to encourage neighbours getting to know their neighbours and to increase building their capacity to make cool things happen in their neighbourhoods. It’s an extrovert’s dream job! Pinch me, right?

My role included teaching volunteers skills, connecting them with services, planning events and parties, and much more. I’ve had a fantastic team of coworkers, a switched-on EFCL board team, and the opportunity to work with thousands of volunteers from every neighbourhood in Edmonton.

For someone who wasn’t born in Edmonton, this job has made me feel like I know the city inside-out, and that I’ve lived here since the 1911 construction of the High Level Bridge.

In no particular order, here are my TOP TEN favorite memories of working for Edmonton Community Leagues…


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Startups and EPSB

I’m spending portions of today and tomorrow at the #accelerateab event presented by C100, BDC, and sponsored by a broad slice of the tech edmonton community. This event is much more than just starting your own business, it’s about exploring opportunities in the tech, bio, entrepreneur, and digital media sectors. The participants I spoke to today were from a wide range of backgrounds but almost all were under 35. Ten or 20 years ago, I wonder how many of these entrepreneurs were sitting at school, sketching out ideas on a notebook of their next invention or project?

As an Edmonton Public School Trustee I think these sort of events are an excellent way for leaders to reflect on our public education system. As the digital/new/tech economy develops, opportunities are becoming available for our graduates, not just in San Francisco, but right here in Edmonton. The more we can lasso our talent and support their dreams right here, the better for our whole community.

Today’s event was about ideas, people, and helping hungry entrepreneurs collaborate. Here are some questions I have been reflecting on:

  • What sort of skills are we providing our graduates that would enable them to be the next Zuckerberg, Jobs, or <insert tech leader> of the future?
  • What sort of extracurricular opportunities can students engage in to start a business and pursue their passions?
  • When we talk about creativity and igniting a passion for learning, how do we ensure that students are exposed to a wide breadth of subjects that can inspire them?
  • What tech-literacies do our future graduates require?
  • Should our second language requirement be extended to a programming code?

I look forward to the discussions!



EPSB Trustees honoured as Grand Marshall of 2012 PRIDE Parade

The Edmonton Public School Board has been honoured by being named Parade Marshall for the 2012 Edmonton PRIDE Parade for our policy work in creating safe spaces for LGBTTQ students in Edmonton Public Schools. As a board we are continuing to work with our partners in the Alberta School Boards’ Association to try and further advance positive supports across the province of alberta.
Last year, the Calgary PRIDE parade selected Mayor Naheed Nenshi as Parade Grand Marshall. With prominent Mayors and elected school trustees saying no to fear and intimidation and bullying, Alberta continues to show that this is a province that welcomes everyone.
This honour is especially timely considering the last provincial election and the resounding rejection by Albertans of the Wildrose Alliance Party and their lack of condemnation of hatred and bigotry.
As Mayor Stephen Mandel said, “homophobia has no place in today’s alberta.”
If you’ve never attended the PRIDE festival, Expect to see a lot of colour and many other families. As someone who attends almost all of Edmonton’s festivals, CariWest is much more risque. At the Pride parade and after party, public indecency isn’t tolerated. It’s about celebrating with the LGBTTQ community (and their straight-but-not-narrow-minded-allies celebrate love) the progress we have made as we move towards equality. If you are going to be there, send me an email!
Look for me driving the convertible!
Read the release below:

Edmonton Public School Board to act as Grand Parade Marshals

For Immediate Release – The Edmonton Pride Festival Society is very excited that the Edmonton Public School Board has accepted its invitation to act as the Grand Parade Marshals at this year’s Pride Parade on Saturday, June 9, 2012.

Each year, the Society, organizers of the annual Pride Festival, selects an honourary Parade Marshal to lead the parade. This is the Festival’s opportunity to both recognize and honour an individual or group for their contributions to the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer) community.

Last November, the School Board approved a new Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity policy that ensures all sexual and gender minority students, staff and families are welcomed, respected, accepted and supported in every school. This ground- breaking policy, which was supported unanimously, is the first of its kind developed by a school board on the prairies.

The School Board’s leadership exemplifies this year’s Festival theme – Stand OUT! We are thrilled they will be playing such a prominent role!

The Edmonton Pride Festival Society, representing the LGBTQ community, coordinates a yearly festival to showcase the community’s unity and diversity.


Michael Phair, Director at Large – 780.426.1516 Terry Harris, Director, Communications – 780.721.3857 Colleen Sutherland, Co-chair – 780.722.6266 Warren Becker, Co-chair – 780.405.2999




EPSB Foundation

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to sit down with Sandra Woitas who is the Executive Director of the EPSB Foundation. Sandra has devoted many years to public education, community service and volunteerism in the Edmonton Community and was also named one of the Edmontonians of the Century.

I’ll admit that in a perfect world, I wish we didn’t need to have a foundation. I wish that we had a fully-funded public education system and that our government invested in early learning, especially for the highest risk populations who need it the most. But they don’t, so that’s where the Foundation comes in...

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Book Review: The Cure for Everything by Timothy Caulfield

Building on District Priority #4 (Promote health and wellness for all students and staff) and our Ward F&H gathering (Healthy Kids, Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities) I had a chance to sit down with Timothy Caulfield, a local Ward F resident, parent, lawyer, academic, and author of the book “The Cure for Everything” (available online or at your local bookstore:http://www.penguin.ca/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780670065233,00.html)

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What is the hardest part about being an elected official

I’ve recently had the privilege of guest speaking to a couple of Grade 6 classes as part of their civics course. I must say these students are sharp.

From knowing intricate details about our municipal government system to the standards they hold for their elected officials, I’m relieved to know that these children are the guardians of our democratic system. These students have goals and hopes and dreams for their democracy and I was thrilled to have the chance to spar with them.

A curve ball that usually knocks me off balance is some variation of the question “What is the  hardest part about being an elected official?

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Are School Trustees Urban Planners?

Are school trustees urban planners? No.

Do decisions made by school board trustees impact city planning? Absolutely.

Twitter: Nov 7th 2012: “@michaeljanz: For the record- last tue at #epsb I argued to include new schools in our capital plan. There are kids in the SW #yeg who really need them.”

Part of the reason I ran for the school board was that I wanted to see a more integrated approach to how we build our communities– with the provincial, municipal, and school boards working together. Although it doesn’t get the same headlines as school closure related issues, I’m thrilled that our board has been working hard on many initiatives for kids like the anti-bullying work, special needs task force, and district priorities. 

I’m glad our board had the opportunity to participate in the community sustainability task force and I hope it leads to more collaborative planning in the future. I look forward to a more coordination and discussion in the future!

Like city council, we need to understand that a city is a complex organism and decisions made by one level of government have dramatic effects upon other entities. Political decisions made in isolation can trigger trickle-down effects that severely impact the work of other levels of government.

If the School Board decides to open a new school, change a neighbourhood school to a magnet site, move yellow bus service, or close a school, all of these decisions have urban planning applications for the whole neighbourhood. Conversely, if the city is going to make transportation decisions that lead to unsafe streets around schools, even though that decision isn’t the jurisdiction of school trustees, you can bet that they should speak up!

Edmonton’s growth plan (in practice) continues to be sprawl-baby-sprawl and has not made family and seniors-friendly infill densification a priority. There’s some nice language in The Way We Grow but in reality development continues outside rather than inside the Henday.Continuing to green-light more sprawl neighbourhoods creates enormous pressure on school boards to meet the educational needs of families who are living further and further away from existing schools.

In the short term, I do support new schools in areas of need. In the long-term, I hope that we will be able to incentivize more families to return to existing neighbourhoods where we have already paid for services. But this won’t happen overnight, and the buck stops with the city of Edmonton and the capital region board on growth decisions. Until then, wherever the children live in Edmonton, we have an obligation to ensure they receive a top-notch Edmonton Public education.

If the city changed its development priorities we could get more families back into our mature neighbourhoods, keep schools open, and save money. The school board could save on transportation and hire more teachers instead. It’s the fiscally prudent thing to do.

If established communities want to keep their schools open— Separate or Public—then we need to make it easy for the kids to live where the schools already are.

The Mayor is right, we do need a variety of housing choices in the city, but we also need a variety of housing choices in the neighbourhoods we have already built! We’ve already invested billions of dollars in the core of our city in our schools, playgrounds, parks, and pools, let’s not let it waste and crumble!



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