No out for Redwater at CRB yet
Province says no to membership tweak
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013 04:15 pm
Alberta’s municipal affairs minister has said “no” to letting Redwater leave the Capital Region Board – at least, not before this fall’s civic elections.
The Capital Region Board released a letter sent to Redwater Mayor Mel Smith last week from Doug Griffiths, the provincial minister of municipal affairs. The letter had been sent on July 15, but was not officially received and released by the town until last week as council was on vacation.
The board includes representatives from 24 municipalities in the capital region, including Edmonton and St. Albert, and is meant to co-ordinate growth in the Edmonton region. Participation is mandatory.
Smith had asked the minister last June to let Redwater leave the board, saying that the board offered no benefit to his community.
Redwater is at the very edge of the board’s influence, Smith said, and doesn’t have the massive growth potential of closer-in communities.
The board also aims to concentrate growth and government grants into Priority Growth Areas, Smith continues. St. Albert is in one such area, but Redwater and other communities are not.
“The way that (the board) is set up and the way it’s structured, we believe the perimeter communities and the smaller communities are mandated to fail.”
Board chair and St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse emphatically disagreed with Smith, especially his argument that Redwater was too small and distant to matter to the board. “Is Prince Edward Island too small for Canada? No.”
Wastewater from Redwater affects everyone along the North Saskatchewan River, Crouse said, and fires and emergencies in Redwater draw help from across the region. “It doesn’t matter how big or how far you are away from somebody else, you’re important.”
In his letter to Smith, Griffiths said one of his priorities as minister was to promote the benefits of collaboration between communities. The board was now reworking its Capital Region Growth Plan for 2015, and it was important that all members participate in the process.
“Given current priorities related to southern Alberta flooding, my ministry is not in a position to undertake a review of the CRB Regulation (i.e. membership) at this time,” Griffiths said. “However, we may consider initiating a review after the 2013 municipal elections.”
It’s not a no, Smith said, but it’s not a yes either. “I’m not going to suggest at all that it’s a perfectly political answer,” he said, with a sarcastic laugh. Still, his sources suggest the province is considering a membership review for the board, and that Sturgeon and Parkland County were also unhappy with the board’s operations.
Sturgeon County was set to consider motion this week to ask for the board’s support in its request to leave the Capital Region Board (which it has yet to formally make to the province).
The minister’s decision means that the board can continue to do its work, Crouse said.
Still, he acknowledged that small communities like Redwater might not see much benefit in membership right now. “Redwater is important, Warburg is important, so why not treat them as being important?”
Crouse has tabled two motions for consideration at the board’s next meeting. The first, if passed, would set aside $100,000 to help planning in communities of less than 3,500. The second would have the board flag $250,000 of its GreenTRIP cash for communities of that size.
While the board might benefit bigger, closer communities, Smith said, it’s also clearly designed to favour Edmonton (which has an effective veto on the board). “This is about money, money the City of Edmonton would like to get from the rural municipalities.”
The next board meeting is Sept. 12.