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You could say this man needs no introduction.
Except Don Iveson was often improperly introduced as Don Ive-R-son, even during the years 2013-2021 when he served as Edmonton’s mayor. This odd, seemingly contagious malaprop never seemed to bother Iveson. He was so prepared for it that he locked down domain names for both Iveson and Iverson during his election campaigns.
He was first elected as a city councillor in 2007 at 28 years of age as a strong advocate for environmental and social causes.
As mayor he sought and won funding for the Valley Line LRT extension, which will eventually link Millwoods in the southeast to Lewis Farms in the far west. He also sponsored a new and ambitious initiative, EndPovertyEdmonton, which he co-chaired with Bishop Jane Alexander.
Iveson also worked with neighbouring municipal councils to forge a stronger capital region; at the national level, he did similar work for five years as chair of Canada’s Big City Mayors Caucus. In 2021, Don Iveson decided to pull out of civic politics and watched on as his friend Amarjeet Sohi took over as mayor.
It's been quiet on the Don Iveson front ever since, so we thought it was time to check in. Iveson agreed to sit down with Erick and Scott, to find out what he’s been up to.
To no surprise, what he’s been up to is a lot. He’s working part-time with the Co-Operators on mitigating the impacts of climate change. He accepted a position at the University of Toronto as a School Of Cities Canadian Urban Leader. He has launched a consultancy to advise on complex municipal issues; is a member of the Expert Panel on Adaptation at the Canadian Climate Institute; and board co-chair at the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.
The climate and housing issues must be tackled together, he argues. It's wrong, he says, to suggest more housing will only drive up carbon loads.
The challenge is difficult but such conditions bring the best out of us and our talent for creativity and innovation, he says. Does he remain hopeful, in a world where facts seemingly matter not and our politics too often mirror schoolyard bully tactics?
Iveson says he is optimistic. Get people away from the furious noise. Sit down with them. Chat with them about how to deal with shared concerns. Then people can and do work together. “I still believe people are amazing in their own right.”
About Don Iveson
Don served as Edmonton’s 35th Mayor from 2013 to 2021 with a guiding leadership principle to make things better for the next generation. This long-term view is now embedded in: Edmonton’s smart-growth City Plan; City Council’s Energy Transition Strategy; and the continued work of EndPovertyEdmonton.
Since retiring from City Hall, Don continues to live in Edmonton. He works part-time with Co-Operators as Executive Advisor for Climate Investment and Community Resilience. Don is also ramping up Civic Good, a public policy advisory practice working on climate, housing, complex governance and civic innovation projects with like-minded clients ranging from startups to governments. He has accepted an appointment as a School of Cities Canadian Urban Leader at the University of Toronto, is a member of the Expert Panel on Adaptation at the Canadian Climate Institute, and volunteers as Board Co-Chair of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness.
As Mayor, Don’s political leadership extended to the national stage, serving as Chair of Canada’s Big City Mayors during an unprecedented rise in the prominence of cities in the national political landscape, including leading during the COVID crisis which hit municipalities especially hard. His advocacy helped to shape the National Housing Strategy and influence the Federal Government to commit to ending chronic homelessness nationwide — goals that cannot be achieved without robust partnerships with cities. He also served as an Honourary Witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and implemented the first trauma-informed all-staff Indigenous awareness and reconciliation training program at a major Canadian city.