Connecting to Canadian Cities

When considering municipal government, we often think about the role of our own city council to manage the affairs of Edmonton and don’t always consider the need to reach outside of our boundaries to build relationships with other places. 14692097_10154496423331147_1111770657917064035_oCities across Canada are often struggling with the same social issues, infrastructure challenges, and funding barriers. As municipalities, we can learn from what others are doing to overcome and respond to these emerging issues. In October, I had the opportunity to visit three cities in Central Canada for the first time and connect with leaders from across the country working with all four orders of government. I want to share some of my observations with you to show how I see Edmonton connected to these other municipalities I visited.

My first stop was Hamilton, Ontario. I was there to present at and attend the National Trust for Canada annual conference. While in Hamilton I saw many connections to Edmonton in the city’s history and culture. Their city has a strong industrial past where their identity as a city is rooted. They also have several post secondary institutions, with the largest being McMaster University, and are focused on health research as an emerging industry. Much like Edmonton’s own emerging post secondary and health city identity, Hamilton is re-inventing itself.

img_20161025_123120I also had the opportunity to visit Montreal for the first time. One thing that was apparent throughout my entire three day stay in the heart of their city is that Montreal is dealing with an incredible infrastructure deficit. A recent study found that 45% of roadways in their city do not meet an acceptable level of service. Investment in maintaining and building infrastructure is one of major costs for municipalities. Reducing infrastructure repair and construction can result in short term savings but a long term challenge if not dealt with on an ongoing basis like Edmonton is currently seeing with the Neighbourhood Renewal program.

While in Central Canada, I also had a short stay in Ottawa. As a government town, Ottawa’s downtown is centered around parliament and other government offices much like Edmonton’s downtown but on a much larger scale. In Edmonton, we pride ourselves on being Alberta’s Capital and jobs in the public sectors have meant some stability for our city in the recent economic downturn.

14853264_10154517875441147_1424300225046123550_oWe may have things in common with these three cities but you may wonder how Edmonton is actually connected to other cities in Canada. As a member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Edmonton benefits from information sharing and advocacy efforts with other cities and towns across the country. As a major city, Edmonton’s Mayor Don Iveson is also a part of the FCM Big City Mayors Caucus, which he currently chairs, along with 21 other Mayors from other large cities.

In 2015, Edmonton hosted the FCM Annual Conference which brings together elected officials from municipalities from across Canada. I had an opportunity to attend the conference and help lead some excursions through our city as a volunteer. I have great pride in our city and all that we are doing for our citizens. It was great to chat with leaders from communities in all parts of Canada to hear about what they are doing that is unique and different than Edmonton. It is through these conversations, interactions, and relationship-building that we will grow, adapt, and respond to the needs of our residents. A handful of people that I met during those five days, I still keep in contact with, including Mayor Mary Smith from Selwyn Township in the County of Peterborough, Ontario, Councillor Arjun Singh from Kamloops, British Columbia, and Councillor Tammy Burke from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta. Thanks to social media, they let me know what is happening in their communities and I share stories with them about Edmonton.

On my most recent trip to Central Canada, I continued to build relationships with leaders from municipalities in Ontario. 14706757_10154496423411147_343742453927543026_oI had the opportunity to connect with Councillor Matthew Green from Hamilton and Councillor Jesse Helmer from London. They offered advice for my campaign and insight on the skills it takes to make tough decisions for the leadership of a city. In anticipation of my time on Edmonton City Council as your Ward 5 Councillor, I will continue to reach out and build relationships with our neighbouring municipalities near and far. I know that the knowledge I gain and the support I receive from colleagues in other Canadian cities will help inform better decision making for the residents of Edmonton.

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