Yesterday, Premier Prentice released ‘Mandate Letters‘ for his cabinet; essentially, his expectations for the men and women he has appointed. Mandate letters are fascinating to politicos for a whole bunch of reasons, but they’re actually critical to us because of the signals they send about the government’s priorities going forward.
I met with Mr. Prentice last week, and we began what I believe could well be the start of a deeper conversation about what it will take to build our city into something truly great – and, in turn, how working differently with Edmonton builds a greater Alberta.
Reflecting on the mandate letters issued by the Premier yesterday, I can’t help but take note of the ways in which they reflect the themes of our meeting last week.
For example, Minister Drysdale’s mandate in Transportation includes direction to “develop a multi-modal transportation system that will support a strong economy, a high quality of life and a healthy environment… to meet growing urban and regional transportation needs.” That’s encouraging compared to the somewhat singular prior focus on highways.
Minister Denis’ mandate in Justice directs that he “(w)ork with police, Human Services and communities to advance safe communities.” This integrated approach, which should address prevention more, is well aligned with our thinking.
With Minister Klimchuk in Human Services, Premier Prentice has mandated her to “(w)ork with communities to align solutions and outcomes around early childhood learning… poverty reduction, and ending homelessness.” This goes to prevention, again, which will also yield a healthier, more engaged, more productive population, which will do more and need less.
I’m especially pleased to see direction for “a new partnership with big cities” in Minister McQueen’s mandate for Municipal Affairs, as we’ve previously requested. We know it will take the efforts of the entire cabinet – not just Minister McQueen’s – to achieve the kind of partnership that will truly benefit cities, but this is encouraging language that sets the table for further conversation.
While it might seem obvious, it is worth noting that none of these mandates can be achieved without working closely with local governments. Building LRT, combatting public safety challenges like gang and drug activity, achieving accessible and affordable early childhood development, and poverty reduction cannot happen without the cooperation and collaboration of local governments. In fact, working with us will very likely improve collective community impact and save public money.
In taking stock of the Premier’s five key priorities (repeated in each of his Ministers’ mandate letters) it becomes even more apparent that Alberta’s cities —in particular our big cities— could be highly effective partners in achieving his goals for Alberta.
In fact, one could say that Edmonton is (and urban areas are) indispensable to the Premier’s agenda.
For example, Mr. Prentice directs that government must have “(a) focused commitment to sound, conservative fiscal principles” and engage in “restoring the public trust.” Of all three orders of government, local governments like ours are often the most trusted and, arguably, the most transparent when it comes to policy-making and budgeting. And while we’re not perfect, we can stretch a dollar through innovation and relatively strong accountability – which is why we’re the right partner for this kind of work.
In order to establish “our province as an environmental leader” Premier Prentice need look no further in Edmonton than our priority to expand LRT to all corners of our city. Expansion of this network will help achieve the Province’s greenhouse gas emission targets by providing Edmontonians new transportation and lifestyle choices. We’ve always advocated for long-term, sustainable and predictable funding for large-scale transportation projects, and thinking ahead past the end of the successful GreenTRIP program (2019) is a great first place to start. Some of our most significant environmental improvements can be made in our cities, and we are ready to partner on making Alberta a greener place to live.
Premier Prentice also mandates that his government deliver on “increasing Albertans’ quality of life by becoming the leader in the areas of health care, education and skills training.” I can think of no finer workshop than Edmonton, a place that has demonstrated a record of innovation in public services – from our schools to nanotechnology, and from diabetes research to open heart surgery. These great public institutions are a competitive advantage for Alberta and require investment and recommitment, especially in Edmonton where people come from all across Northern Alberta for education, training and health services.
All in all, I’m optimistic about what a new relationship with this government might look like. They have clearly defined their mandate, and I’ve been clear about ours.
Edmonton stands ready to build on our shared priorities.