Speaking with One Voice

When speaking about Edmonton and the issues that are important to residents, it’s important to think about our regional neighbours as well. Although many neighbouring cities, towns, and counties are not officially included within Edmonton’s boundaries, they are a big part of who we are. Residents of these places work and play in our city, attend our schools, drive on our roads, and contribute to the social and economic opportunities that the Capital Region provides. Courtesy: http://www.makingtracks2015.ca/From Ward 5, we are within a 15 minute drive of eight other municipalities that residents might frequent regularly. In the past decade, there has been more focus on our regional cooperation. It’s clear that since we all rely on each other for supports and services, we should be working together so that everyone can benefit.

In 2008, the Provincial Government created the Capital Region Board under the Municipal Government Act. It brought together 24 municipalities, including the City of Edmonton, under a governing structure that allowed more collaborative discussion and decision making as a region. The Capital Region Board focuses on overseeing “Growing Forward”, the Capital Region’s Growth Plan approved in March 2010. The plan covers services that are critical to all members of the region including land use, transit, affordable housing, and geographic information. The governing board is made up of the Mayors & Reeves of all 24 cities, towns, and counties that make up the CRB and has several committees which include Mayors & Councillors from these municipalities. I had the opportunity to attend several Capital Region Board and Committee meetings in the past, most of which are open to the public to observe. They are also fascinating to watch. The Capital Regional Board forces our municipally elected decision makers to not only think about what will work for their own residents but consider what is best for all those who live in the region. I see big opportunities to align the City of Edmonton’s long term vision and goals with the plans of those who surround and support us. As our boundaries become more fluid and the majority of residents pass over them daily as part of their normal routines, thinking about the region collectively is so important.

downtownaerialAnother cooperative agreement was recently signed in our region, and you may have heard about it on the news. The Metro Mayors Alliance was formed in September of last year, bringing together nine Mayors from the largest municipalities of the Capital Region. These municipalities make up 95% of the region’s population and 80% of its land base. Although the Alliance is made up of nine members who also belong to the Capital Region Board, they are not under a provincial mandate. Earlier this year, the Metro Mayors Alliance released an independently commissioned report on regional growth, “Be Ready, or Be Left Behind”. The findings of that report report led the Mayors to sign a Memorandum of Understanding earlier this month. This document outlines how they plan to work together for the economic and social prosperity of the region. How this document will work together with the mandate of the Capital Region Board is yet to be seen.

I ran into the CEO of the Capital Region Board, Malcolm Bruce, at the recent stakeholder engagement sessions for the Provincial City Charters. We had an opportunity to discuss how these proposed changes to the Municipal Government Act will not only affect Edmonton and Calgary but also the communities that surround them. Specifically, Malcolm and I talked about the changes that fall under the category of collaboration, which include many of the same issues under the mandate of the Capital Region Board. Take transportation planning for example. Imagine if each town or city only planned for the transportation needs of their own residents. This wouldn’t account for movement within the region for work, school, shopping, or recreation, let alone movement of residents to neighbouring communities, provinces, or around the world. In our discussion at the consultation, we talked about how transportation planning has to be more broad than just roads. It has to include the movement of people and goods in a variety of ways, like regional transit, highways and dangerous goods routes, airplane and train access, and even ride sharing options like Uber. img_9463Giving municipalities more decision making power, as the City Charters are proposing, must also mean more cooperation between towns and cities.

Because Ward 5 reaches the western edge of Edmonton, we should be especially concerned with how we are working with our close regional neighbours like Parkland County, Enoch Cree Nation, Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, Sturgeon County, St. Albert, Devon, and Leduc County. Their residents are coming to visit us regularly and we visit them. They are our co-workers and friends and we should be thinking about them when we make decisions. True partnership and collaboration should be at the core of our relationships throughout the region, both personal, professional, and on a government level. Our elected leaders should all be sharing a common vision for growth and opportunity in the Alberta Capital Region and working together for the best possible outcomes for their residents.

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