“It is an opportunity to pay attention to what might be coming down the pipes as far as policy goes,” she explains. “We get to meet with colleagues across northern Alberta and northern Saskatchewan… whereas when we go to UBCM we’re meeting with communities from further south.”

The agenda of the conference largely depends on the host city, and this year much of the focus seemed to be on housing. Ackerman sat in on a social economic development session, and although she felt it focused more on problems than solutions, much of what she heard could be translated back to Fort St. John. Some of the topics included bringing back the long form census, advocating for First Nations in communities and seniors wanting to stay at home as long as possible.

“We hear a lot about how seniors want to age in place and they want to be independent,” she explains. “I don’t want to be dependent on someone moving forward.” 

However, a session the next day on climate adaptation brought to light how many seniors in high rise buildings during a heat wave in Chicago went without power and running water when the energy system was overloaded and auxiliary power could only reach up to the sixth floor. While Fort St. John doesn’t have those tall buildings, Ackerman says it made her think about the impact of natural disasters from a more sociological perspective, and how to plan a community around that. In the Energetic City that applies to building cells under the parking lot of the Pomeroy Sport Centre that can hold storm water to decrease the impact of a major rainfall.

“We did the right thing when we built the Pomeroy Sport Centre by putting those cells there,” she argues, adding the other thing she took away is the need to connect with health care providers to make sure there is an up-to-date database of the city’s “vulnerable population” and how they can be reached in the event of an emergency.

“It may not be the City that reaches out to them,” she adds. “It may be their churches or it may be one of the social enterprises that are here in the community, but we do need to know where those people are,” in the event of a long-term situation.