Policy in brief
Edmonton is not an island. The municipalities comprising our region play an important part in the economic and social prosperity we all value. As mayor, one of my key priorities will be to lead consensus building to craft stronger regional cooperation that maximizes our shared opportunity while ensuring orderly and balanced growth, including ensuring that the burdens and the benefits of growth in our region are not unfairly borne by Edmonton.
What we’ll do in the short term
As mayor I will rally the region around a shared vision and strategy for economic development, pursue a diplomatically negotiated end to our annexation bid and changes to the regional growth plan so Edmonton doesn’t bear a disproportionate number of costs. As mayor, my approach will be to come to the table in good faith, acting as an honest broker to bridge differences, leading with a continued emphasis on cooperation, mutual benefit and fairness.
Where we need to be a generation from now
My vision is that within a generation, we will have a rationally-planned, balanced regional growth that is driven by strategic job growth rather than raw population growth, growth driven by logical infrastructure prioritization rather than politics, and growth planning that protects key agricultural lands in the region.
More thoughts from Don
There are significant gaps in how Edmonton works together with its neighbours in the Capital Region: we still don’t have a coherent economic development strategy; our annexation bid is the source of some tension; we don’t have a regional plan for infrastructure to support the growth of our economy; and we have no plan for long-term agricultural land preservation.
Leadership on the regional file has as much to do with listening as it does with having a strong voice for Edmonton. Edmonton can’t force a resolution to our concerns about economic development, infrastructure costs, annexation and regional population patterns. The regional municipalities rightly have their own interests and concerns. We can’t use bombastic or overly aggressive language with our regional neighbours. Edmonton’s mayor needs to be an honest broker who can come to the table as one among equals — encouraging all partners to plan together so we can prosper together. Of the candidates running for mayor of Edmonton, I have the deepest relationships and most experience with mayors and councillors from surrounding municipalities.
As mayor, my top regional priority will be to rally those partners around a shared vision for coordinated economic development. Without a coordinated plan for regional economic development, the Capital Region, and the individual cities, towns, and counties that make it up, will never live up to its full economic potential. This costs us time, talent, and investment dollars.
The groundwork for this is already in place; in 2011, the Capital Region Board developed — and then shelved — the ‘Capitalize’ plan, a valuable economic road map for the region. I believe our regional partners still see that plan as a viable blueprint for moving our economy forward. It doesn’t prescribe the creation of a regional economic authority, but rather sets out themes and strategies that everyone in the region can work towards. As mayor, I’ll bring this plan back to CRB and carefully revise it into something all our regional partners can get behind. The new plan will have us singing from the same song sheet when we make the case for investment in our region.
To make this happen, we need a mayor who can bring the regional representatives together, outline our common goals, and have productive discussions, even when they have axes to grind. I’ve been able to do this during my time with the CRB and I will be able to do it again. My work on getting a consensus around the 30-year regional transit plan, investments for our upcoming Smart Card program, and successes in having other municipalities share costs for park-and-ride are among the most substantial progress the Capital Region Board has seen.
Secondly, as mayor I’ll negotiate a diplomatic conclusion to our annexation bid. Edmonton needs the land out to and including the airport to grow our industrial tax base and to integrate the airport into our long-term transportation planning. These negotiations are an area where understanding the subtle nuances of how the region works and leveraging existing relationships will mean the difference between resolving these important negotiations within a two-year window or within a five-year window.
Finally, I will push for the Capital Region Growth Plan to be revised to be based on projected job growth rather than projected population growth. Making coordinated planning decisions based on population growth has resulted in Edmonton paying a disproportionate share of infrastructure costs in the region. We need to understand where the future jobs are going to be located and build infrastructure on that basis, resulting in some equity for Edmonton. I would also like to see some foresight in the new Growth Plan around preserving key agricultural land that is at risk with regional sprawl.
The Capital Region is poised to become a dynamic, prosperous centre for everyone. To get there, we need leadership from Edmonton’s mayor to bridge differences between regional partners. I am committed to doing just that.