Red Deer has taken the lead in crafting a social road map that will guide efforts to meet the community’s needs.
Council adopted a Social Policy Framework on Monday after a year of consultations, workshops and research.
Municipalities typically do not deliver social services but are mandated to deliver the funding for them provided by the provincial and federal governments.
Mayor Tara Veer said in recent years municipalities have been faced with a series of downloads, particularly on the social front, from federal and provincial governments.
She said downloading has forced municipalities to shift toward a social mandate without having a road map to respond.
“Shelter spaces are a prime example,” she said. “Shelters are a direct mandate of the provincial government. Having said that, when there was a closure of a not-for-profit last year, our citizens, and rightfully so, had a strong expectation that the local government would respond so we don’t have vulnerable citizens out in the cold.”
Veer said there is a a public expectation that the city exercise social responsibility when there are gaps in services to the community. The framework will allow the city to strategically prioritize the way it responds, advocates for another government to respond or partners with community agencies.
The framework, she said, is a response to the new normal that municipalities are navigating. She said it builds a foundation for the city to inform decision-making in the future. It will help the city evaluate and address community needs, such as Red Deer’s social well-being.
There are goals related to housing, health and basic needs, safety, social and cultural diversity, equitable services and access, among other issues.
Paul Goranson, the city’s director of Corporate Services, said very few municipalities across Canada have adopted documents related to the well-being of the community.
Goranson said the framework will clarify the city’s responsibilities and roles related to health, housing, transportation, safety, diversity, community belonging, and educational and economic opportunity.
It also touches on potable water, recreation and waste water treatment systems, he said.
“It is a very complex list of issues,” said Goranson. “We’ve never really had a comprehensive document to dialogue with our community groups on what we should and shouldn’t be doing with the community. This puts it all in one package.”
He said it is a long-term document that will inform future priorities and future actions that the city and community may undertake in the years to come.
The policy’s adoption is part of the three-step process. The work now shifts to implementing the framework, including identifying the existing city and community initiatives that address social goals and determining the gaps.
The social policy framework stems from the Safety Charter, which is one of the themes of City Council’s Strategic Direction 2012-14.
Council is expected to hear an update on the framework in early 2016.
The framework is available at www.reddeer.ca/socialpolicyframework.