The Price of Good Food – an Acadian Tale



My $10.25 meal

It’s Saturday morning and the Dieppe farmers’ market on the outskirts of Moncton is buzzing. Farm stalls offer a local bounty: vegetables galore, plump strawberries and blueberry jam, meats and cheese, wines and apple cider. At the food court, I get a vegetable sandwich ($5), and my son, a small box of dumplings ($5). We share a strawberry smoothie ($5.50) and get two muffins ($5). For $10.25 each, we’ve had a delicious locally-prepared meal, made largely with local ingredients.


Dieppe Farmer’s Market, Dieppe, New Brunswick

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En Route to Paris: Shifting Sands in Alberta – the Energy Futures Lab

Guest post by Chad Park, Executive Director, The Natural Step Canada 

Six months ago I returned with my wife and our young family to Edmonton after almost 20 years away from Alberta. The motivation behind my homecoming? A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead the Energy Futures Lab, an initiative so timely and relevant that there was no escaping its call.

How Alberta chooses to tackle climate change, energy security and sustainable development is key to the future prosperity of not only the province, but the entire country. The opportunity to be involved in a project that helps to frame that decision was simply too good to pass up.

From the shocking reminder last fall of just how tied we are to the price of a global commodity over which we have no control, to the equally stunning outcome of the recent provincial election, the signs have been clear that Alberta is ready for a new conversation about its energy future. Having met with hundreds of leaders and groups across the province in the last couple months, the most consistent reaction to the Energy Futures Lab is “Wow! Your timing couldn’t be better.”

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Pollinating systems change in higher education through evaluation


Chad_Blog AuthorThis is an exciting time for RECODE. As the work on campuses across Canada continues to ramp up, we are developing ways in which we can effectively evaluate and measure the impact of this work. Our guiding question has been “what will success look like?” To help us answer it, we have developed anticipated desired outcomes, but we also recognize there will be many unknowns. RECODE is working within a broader system of higher education that is also complex; accordingly, our evaluation framework has to be designed and adapted in consequence.

Tim Draimin, Social Innovation Generation‘s Executive Director, recently suggested that I read The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley. The book explores the role of human nature and human networks in creating change and innovation, positing that to truly affect change we need to better understand the role of ‘keystones’. In biological systems, whether a rainforest or an ocean, keystone species often act as central supporting hubs. They interact in so many valuable ways with so many other parts of the ecosystem, that their presence has a disproportionate impact on the system (pg. 70). Think of the role of the pollinating bee in our food system, and you’ll get an idea of the importance of keystone species.

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En Route to Paris: Unlocking the door to Smart Energy Communities – a Framework for Implementation


Guest post by: Eric Campbell, Acting Director, Programs & Service, QUEST and  Sarah Marchionda, Manager, Research & Education, QUEST

Communities – the places where we live, work and play – account for 60% of energy use in Canada, as well as over half of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). In other words, when we invest, plan and implement effectively for Smart Energy Communities, we can have a direct impact on addressing Canada’s energy and GHG challenges.

QUEST believes that there are three fundamental features of a Smart Energy Community that you can view by watching this video.

  1. First, a Smart Energy Community integrates conventional energy networks. That means that the electricity, natural gas, district energy and transportation fuel networks in a community are better coordinated to match energy needs with the most efficient energy source.
  2. Second, a Smart Energy Community integrates land use, recognizing that poor land use can equal a whole lot of energy waste.
  3. Third, a Smart Energy Community harnesses local energy opportunities.

Many cities and communities in Canada have taken ownership over their energy, recognizing the significant impact energy has on the local economy, health and community resilience. These communities are exemplifying some of the features of a Smart Energy Community.

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Painting the future: Opportunities for more healthy, local and sustainable food

Beth-2014-1Three years ago, a small group of senior staff from three foundations gathered to talk about our common efforts to support local and sustainable food development: helping farmers access markets, improving supply chains, protecting prime farmland, raising public awareness and informing public policy. What was missing, we mused, was the background to all this work that would help us and others understand the context for all these individual efforts: imports, exports, pollution, waste, taxes, and subsidies.

So we decided to jointly commission a piece of research that would paint this backdrop, engaging a team with a strong diversity of skills and experience, headed up by Atif Kubursi of Econometrics. The Econometrics team’s extensive experience in economic and transportation modelling would be complimented by Harry Cumming’s knowledge of rural dynamics and Rod MacRae’s food policy expertise. There was an on-going conversation between researchers and foundation staff as the work unfolded.

Unlike most artists painting a landscape, the researchers didn’t know what their painting would look like once completed. This made it very difficult to make a communications plan for the work, but kept the process exciting! The research set out to track major economic and environmental impacts of the food system in southern Ontario (a region where all three foundations were working). It found that local food impacts are largely positive — the food economy creates jobs and generates tax revenues.

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En route to Paris: A low carbon economy is emerging in Ontario communities


Guest post by Mike Morrice, Executive Director, Sustainability CoLab

“Why wouldn’t this work anywhere else?”

That was the question that inspired us to create Sustainability CoLab three years ago, followed quickly by the question that has kept us focused since: “And what influence could a whole network of these programs have together?”

CoLabTransSmallNow 15 months since CoLab launched—and as momentum builds towards Paris this December – we can begin to share how the low-carbon economy is taking root in communities across Ontario.

Today, the program that inspired us to create CoLab – Sustainable Waterloo Region’s Regional Carbon Initiative (RCI) – continues to thrive. The RCI brings together a roster of unlikely players employing 14% of Waterloo Region’s workforce in a shared sustainability journey: learning from each other, connected to a network of support, and reporting back on results against targets to reduce their carbon impact.

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Reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples will involve each and every one of us

Nicole_Blog author enThere are certain events that always stay with people, etched in their memories forever. For me, Wednesday, June 11, 2008 marks one such event. On that day, I was at the White Buffalo Youth Lodge in Saskatoon alongside hundreds of survivors of Indian residential schools, as they listened to the prime minister make a statement of apology for the abuse and neglect that had been perpetrated in those schools for over a century.

I had begun working with survivors from the schools the previous year. I have always been drawn to work that enables me to have an impact on people’s lives. I think that is the reason why I ended up working in the public service. My first job was at Service Canada, where I worked on implementing the Common Experience Payment as part of the Indian Residential School Resolution.

Statement of apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools

Statement of apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools in 2008

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En Route to Paris: Climate Change Conference (COP21)


Nicolina_blog photo enParis. Climate Conference. These words will be heard more and more often in the coming months, and by December 2015, they’ll be in every TV, radio, Internet and printed news report. This event will mark the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Expected to draw 40 000 individuals, government delegates, and civil society representatives, the conference aims to “reach a universal and binding agreement to combat climate change effectively and boost the transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies.

Post 2016, Paris will also be a name associated with worldwide political commitments to bring down the global temperature rise through carbon-reduction targets. As a result, many columns, blogs and analyses will discuss whether these targets are realistic and attainable, the short-term economic costs of reaching these targets, and the long-term economic costs of failing to reach them. Read the rest of this entry »

Leading Large-Scale Change for Ontario Youth: Innoweave’s Youth CI Program

Mary Rose blog photo enIn December, the Foundation’s Innoweave initiative launched Youth CI, an exciting new partnership with the Laidlaw Foundation and Government of Ontario. Youth CI builds on Innoweave’s Collective Impact module to help communities across Ontario learn about, develop, launch, and implement Collective Impact initiatives that directly improve outcomes for youth.

Across the community sector there is a growing recognition that large-scale change can’t be achieved by organizations working in isolation. Youth CI provides organizations facing complex challenges (like youth homelessness) the space and the resources needed to develop a collaborative plan using the Collective Impact framework.Youth CI


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Why Vibrant Communities? 10 Reasons Why Canada Needs to Reduce Poverty

The following are some notes drawn from a speech I made at the Tamarack Poverty Reduction Summit in Ottawa, May 6.

Stephen-Huddart-authorJohn Wilson McConnell, who in 1935 established the Foundation for which I am privileged to work, was born in 1877 to Irish immigrants who had arrived in Canada that same year, illiterate and bankrupt. Like many in those days, and millions more since, his family came hoping to find a better life here.

We now know that the promise of plenty that brought families like the McConnells to Canada – often with the offer of free or low-cost land – had devastating consequences for others. The colonial/settler era resulted in the systematic displacement and marginalization of Indigenous peoples.

Nevertheless, it is striking to consider that, starting out from such humble beginnings, by the time he was 50, McConnell had become, in all likelihood, the wealthiest person in Canada. How did that happen?

The advantages of coming of age in the 20th century

McConnell attended public school, and even in those days, Ontario’s schools were world class. As his biographer notes, “At the Paris Exhibition of 1887, the Ontario Department of Education won awards in six categories – more than Britain and the rest of the empire put together.” When his family moved from their farm in the Muskokas to Toronto – from rural to urban poverty – McConnell found work in the bookkeeping department of a dry goods trading company. He also took night courses at the YMCA. In this way he learned about business, and he soon began trading wood, wheat and other commodities.


The Muskoka cabin where McConnell grew up would have been almost identical to this one. Photo courtesy of Walker and Kapya Riley, circa 1889.

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