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REPORTING · 26th November 2013
Walter McFarlane
At a Committee of the Whole Meeting on Monday, November 25th, Council saw a presentation from Karen Williams, Manager of Accessibility Initiatives from S.P.A.R.K. BC. She presented to Council on Social Planning. She thanked Council for inviting her to Kitimat. She expressed she has been looking forward to coming to Kitimat after studying its town plan in urban planning school.

Acting Mayor Edwin Empinado stated this came from a motion to develop a Social Development Strategy because there are so many things going on in Kitimat which are impacting it socially. He added this was being proactive rather than reactive.

“Today, I’d like to share three different pieces of information. First I’d like to provide some information on S.P.A.R.K. BC, as well as some background information on Municipal Social Planning. Second, I would like to show an example of a municipal social plan that S.P.A.R.K. has worked on. Third, I would like to provide an overview of some of the benefits of getting involved in Municipal Social Planning Process,” said Williams.

She explained who S.P.A.R.K. BC is, the Social Planning and Research Council of British Columbia. They are a non-profit organization which has been around since 1966 and their mission is to work with communities to build a just and healthy society for all.

They work in accessibility, community development education and social planning research and social research. She explained social planning takes quality of life and social well-being into consideration for community residence. The needs and priorities make these different for all communities. These include affordable housing, child care, food security, accessibility, mental health, addiction and so on.

“Many communities across BC are finding that there is a need to undertake a Municipal Social Plan. A Municipal Social Plan provides the foundation for an integrated coordinated and sustainable approach to Social Development and Social Well Being in a community. In particular, a Social Plan fulfills three key functions. First, Social Plans identify the communities top social priority areas which need to be addressed. Second, Social Plans develop strategies which respond to these key issues. Third, Social Plans clarify the role of the local government and other stakeholders in addressing social issues,” said Williams.

She expressed a Municipality which is undertaking a social plan might wonder when the best time for this. She told Council it is always beneficial to have one of these plans, but they are most beneficial to communities undergoing rapid change, such as those experiencing boom and bust cycles.

Williams stated Social Planning is considered to be one of the three pillars of Social Sustainability and sustainable development in Communities, along with economic and environmental sustainability, which are required to maintain a good quality of life for the community’s residents.

She told Council the District of Kitimat could incorporate the Social Plan into a larger plan, or inform an OCP.

“Without an overall guiding Social Planning framework, Communities might end up producing separate action plans for strategies for a whole range of different social issues without any process to allocate resources or set priorities. There is even the risk that there would be so many competing priorities that that would lead to inaction all together,” said Williams.

She compared it to trying to run a circus without a ring master where the knife thrower hits the clown and the lion eating the acrobat.

“A social Plan Provides a framework to guide municipalities overall approach to facilitating the circus of Social Planning,” said Williams.

She stated the objectives are to talk to people who do not normally get involved in the planning process. They work with community members and partners about what the priorities should be. Then they work with local partners to find the assets and gaps in each area which need to be addressed while making the most of community strengths. They strengthen the partnerships by defining the role of the municipality and the community partners.

Williams told Council S.P.A.R.K. strive to adapt their approach to the community and its needs. She talked about the Dawson Creek Social plan and how they helped out.

“We would welcome an opportunity to work with your community to tailor an approach to your communities specific needs,” said Williams.

She stated they would be willing to work at some of the other concerns, such as a housing action plan. There are people in S.P.A.R.K. who would be willing to help out for an additional fee.

She summarized the key benefits to social planning, clarity around the municipality’s role and outlines a plan of action to deal with social issues, improves coordination among Social Service Providers, facilitate investment and improve quality of life and social wellbeing for a community.

Councillor Phil Germuth stated this would be helpful because they are trying to develop a plan and act on it. Councillor Mario Feldhoff asked Williams to supply some social plans for other communities.

Councillor Rob Goffinet asked if she was familiar with the UNBC integrated reports created by Dr Greg Halseth. Williams replied she has a copy and it is the type of information they would be looking at during the initial stages of a social plan.

Goffinet pointed out she stated: ‘Additional Fee.’ He wanted to know if there was a contract to produce a certain product and if there were set fees based on the depth of the study. He was told They would focus on Social Planning and advice to communities in BC. They would try to be flexible if the community wants to pursue it.

Councillor Corinne Scott asked if S.P.A.R.K. would organize the meetings and do the paperwork. She was told that this is what they have done in the past, but they could provide an advisory role. Scott wanted to know how long it would be. It could be done over a few months, but could be longer or shorter.