I admit it is challenging for governments to receive feedback or opinions from taxpayers unless it is a contentious issue or they are impacted directly. When I heard that the City of Edmonton is planning to charge $175 for residents to attend Food and the City, a conference on May 25 and 26 which provides an opportunity for Edmontonians to participate in a conversation about the city-wide food and agriculture strategy.
When I saw the price, my jaw dropped. I’m shocked that the city is asking its taxpayers to pay to engage on an issue that impacts all residents. I understand that bringing Wayne Roberts as a keynote speaker costs money. However, I’m sure we can do without A Taste of Alberta reception on Friday night and the buffet luncheon. I have no idea what the other costs are.
The Food and Agricultural Project is part of the city’s municipal development plan, The Way We Grow. This conference is not the only opportunity for residents to become involved with developing a strategy around local food. My question is why is it the only one that charges a fee? I’m not the only one who is upset by the city’s decision. Metro wrote a story, Mack Male mentioned how wrong he thinks this strategy is in a blog post and Liane Faulder is encouraging that the fee be dropped.
I’ve participated in City of Edmonton events before and there was no fee at all. CityCamp provided an opportunity to discuss open data and lunch was provided. In 2009, I attended a community building workshop where the room was filled with volunteers to listen to Jim Diers talk about how to engage neighbourhoods. He emphasized the best way to peak citizens’ interest in providing feedback is hold a party rather than a meeting.
Well, if the City of Edmonton is taking Diers’ advice and the Food and the City conference is a way to hold a party to build relationships and to engage residents, it’s not the best plan to charge for it. Ditch the fee and make this event accessible to all residents. Doesn’t food and agriculture impact us all?
UPDATE: The City of Edmonton announced that it has reduced the fee for Food and the City to $50 and $25 for seniors and students. There is an option to pay for the Taste of Alberta reception and the luncheon as a separate fee.