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CRB moves hint at forward progress

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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 16, 2014 06:00 am

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Two recent bits of news out of the Capital Region Board are positive signs that the much-maligned body can be more effective in the years to come.

First, on April 9 it was announced that the board’s CEO Doug Lagore and chair Nolan Crouse (St. Albert’s mayor) are hitting the road to visit rural members. This tour will see Lagore and Crouse visit Redwater, Bon Accord and Gibbons later this month “to connect with each of the board’s member municipalities in their communities,” according to a news release.

Ostensibly, this road trip is aimed at mending rifts that have long been apparent but which came to the forefront last year when various rural members were talking openly about their desire to withdraw from the board. The most vocal example of this came from Redwater Mayor Mel Smith, who sent a letter to the province asking that his town be allowed to withdraw from the board. The answer was an unequivocal no.

In the second bit of news, the board’s Performance Monitoring Committee met for the first time on April 10. Formed after an organizational review last year, the committee “is responsible for monitoring the board’s progress on its approved business and strategic plans, and issues management.” Essentially, the committee is charged with ensuring the board is doing its job.

The Capital Region Board has been a lightning rod for criticism since 2008 when it was forced on the 24 municipalities in and around Edmonton by then premier Ed Stelmach. The voting structure, which gives Edmonton an effective veto, has been of particular concern to some of the smaller municipalities.

The board’s originally-stated purpose was to prepare and implement an integrated growth plan that covers areas like land use, transit and affordable housing. In layman’s terms, it was meant to get the various municipalities on the same page rather than chasing their own goals as if the others didn’t exist.

For all its flaws, the board is necessary and the province has made it clear that it isn’t going anywhere. And for good reason. It just doesn’t make sense to revert to an every-community-for-itself approach.

CRB cynics and skeptics will no doubt feel that the board’s latest attempts at self-improvement are superficial moves to patch the rifts that are inevitable when 24 municipalities with sometimes competing objectives are forced to work together. But there are positives here. These efforts show that the board is not blind to the issues that plague it and show that it’s willing to take steps to address the problems.

The rural road trip has the potential to be more than superficial. Often, just making an effort to get together and showing a commitment to co-operation can go a long way toward mending rifts. A case in point is the 180-degree shift in relations between Sturgeon County and the City of St. Albert since Tom Flynn became the county’s mayor last fall.

The Capital Region Board is the best we’ve got and it’s positive to see it making an honest effort to be more effective.


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