St. Albert is collaborating with other municipalities on a number of regional priorities, including transit, economic development and annexation.
The Gazette asked candidates for their thoughts on regional collaboration. Councillor candidates had a 75-word limit while mayoral candidates had a 150-word limit.
Aside from the candidates listed here, Ray Watkins and Leonard Wilkins are also running for council but did not provide a response.
Q: What, if any, regional issues are a priority for you to pursue for St. Albert?
Prosperity in the region equates to prosperity for St. Albert. We live in a symbiotic relationship with Edmonton, Sturgeon County and beyond and therefore cannot act in isolation. As we tackle big problems, such as Ray Gibbon Drive, recreation facility deficit, new legislation to allow broader revenue capabilities and attracting economic investment, I will come to the table and negotiate for the advancement of St. Albert. The issues mentioned above are all a priority, but by far the biggest is our boundary adjustment with Sturgeon County. This needs to progress in an open, uncontested manner. We need to plan for growth and we need to address our high off-site levies through a bigger basin so we are not priced out of the market.
I am not one who believes in collaborating for the sake of collaboration. If we can achieve economies of scale or scope which end up delivering a better service or a lower price, then I support collaboration. However, you have to get a better price or a better service to offset the loss of control that results from regional collaboration. I would like to consider a potential joint venture with Sturgeon County to zone and market a zero-waste industrial park and to increase the capacity of the Villeneuve airport. I am also interested in examining a potential amalgamation of our transit system. These initiatives should help us to broaden our tax base and reduce our costs.
Partnering relationships between municipalities are cost-effective as the partners share the capital investment and ongoing operating costs. The sources of funding from provincial and federal governments are enhanced when municipalities co-operate. There are several priorities St. Albert could pursue, including transit, land use planning, economic development, infrastructure such as roads, Ray Gibbon Drive and utilities that serve beyond municipal boundaries. Medical services facilities beyond just hospitals can serve a wider community than St. Albert, so planning should include St. Albert and Sturgeon County. A multipurpose centre to the north of the city where amenities could be consolidated will offer cost savings, resulting in tax benefits. We need to consider in our joint annexation planning with Sturgeon County those factors that benefit both parties.
Opportunities for regional collaboration are always worthy of exploration and consideration In some circumstances, there may be advantages to moving forward as part of a group rather than alone. In addition to the priorities mentioned, I believe there is merit in approaching the advocacy for Ray Gibbon Drive as a regional need. The development of recreational facilities may also present an opportunity to work with others in the region.
Collaboration on regional issues is a consideration of autonomy versus efficiency. Financial savings (i.e., reducing management duplication) benefits everyone. However, if communities feel they might lose all control of localized solutions, or if there is a serious power imbalance (as with the current Capital Region Board voting structure), then benefits become less apparent and there will be resistance. Obviously, common services such as fire, police and transit could be considered, but we must retain some control of specific interests.
Regional collaboration is a priority for me as a councillor. Through regional provision of civic services, each community will reap the benefit of economies of scale, reduced administrative overhead costs, efficient service planning and optimized use of capital assets. Public transit, wastewater management, economic development, affordable housing, and fire and police services are just a few areas requiring study. Regionalized services does not mean amalgamation. St. Albert can participate regionally and maintain an individual municipal identity.
All are important. Transit provides the regional connections we need to get people to educational institutions and downtown. Economic development is needed to fuel our labour market and bring us opportunities for new business and light industrial growth, which helps our tax base. Annexation is vital to plan the future of St. Albert now so that proper transportation routes can be planned and St. Albert can complete a new municipal development plan for growth.
St. Albert should continue to show leadership within the region. Establishing a positive working relationship with our neighbours is always a good idea and in these economically challenging times it is essential. Items like transit, annexation and economic development continue to be a priority, but there are also regional opportunities related to public services and recreation that should be discussed.
Business development would be my priority because by increasing the number of active businesses in St. Albert we can start to reduce the tax burden of all residents of St. Albert. We need to create an environment where business can start and grow in St. Albert. We must also work hard to attract more existing businesses in St. Albert.
I will support mutually beneficial agreements with neighbouring municipalities that yield benefits to St. Albert residents. I will examine areas such as transit, accommodations for lost pets (cats and dogs) and will examine any other opportunity that will yield a benefit for local taxpayers. At the same time, I will not support agreements that do not benefit St. Albert residents.
The annexation is top priority for me. With the annexation comes new districting, which will allow council to set up the communities for the future. I intend to see that the new districting creates the housing that my generation will not only want but will be able to afford. Through districting, I want to bring generations together, since it is only through people coming together that community is formed.
Regional decisions affect us all. Collaborative planning with neighbouring municipalities is critical for effective growth to occur. Regional issues important to me include: having a solid plan for watershed health, such as Sturgeon River and Big Lake; ensuring the twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive; careful planning and protection of land that is regionally shared; and regional social supports for seniors, youth and families.
My top priority is addressing the upcoming annexation, which is necessary for affordable growth and decreased risk for taxpayers. Regional projects should be in St. Albert’s best interest to join and provide a clear ROI. Only when the regional initiative provides increased services and/or decreased costs, and/or creates efficiencies in its scale should it be pursued.
Collaborating with other municipalities could prove to have cost savings and benefits for St. Albert. Transit, economic development and infrastructure are all top issues for St. Albert. It is important that each municipality maintains its own identity regardless of their collaborative efforts with others.
Housing, economic development and transit are all important regional issues. A strong presence on the Capital Region Board will ensure that St. Albert continues to have a voice leading economic development in the region, and that we are meeting the needs of residents. Continued support for regional seniors housing initiatives will provide long-term stability for our low-income seniors, and the Regional Commuter Transit Commission will allow St. Albert to explore options for inclusive and reliable regional transit.
Regional issues are very complicated. I would need time to get up to speed after the election to confirm that I was speaking in the best interest of St. Albert. I would like to see some data on regional discussions for creating a regional transit board because I love the way cities like Greater Vancouver have prospered from joining forces to move their residents more effectively. Their smaller communities have received lower costs and better services.
Collaboration with the communities around us is key to the growth of St. Albert. I like the recent improvements and situations approved in our transit system deal with Edmonton. This should help our residents to get a smoother transition to Edmonton. Economic development will obviously help us as a community. I would continue our growth in all three categories and push for more collaboration.
More and more residents live and think regionally. They see St. Albert as part of a greater whole and expect collaboration among the various levels of government that affect their lives. Integrated commuter services, wastewater, annexation and economic development remain priorities. In an increasingly globalized world economy, working together to promote and support the region is critical. The benefits of collaborating in creating regional recreation facilities is another opportunity that should be developed and supported.
At this point, St. Albert is already collaborating on a number of regional issues such as economic development and transit. I expect collaboration with our neighbours on a range of issues to increase in light of the new mandatory requirement to do so. Nonetheless, although I expect continued engagement on economic development and transit to remain a priority, community safety and issues around inclusion would become increasingly so, in light of the tragic violence over the weekend.
Having recently driven Ray Gibbon Drive it is obvious that the road is atrociously inadequate for the demand. Twinning Ray Gibbon Drive is a safety (and regional) matter for which collaborative funding from the province is imperative.
Regional transportation (improving public transit) impacts all commuters and will help reduce traffic congestion. The Sturgeon County land annexation is another important issue.
Ensuring that St. Albert maintains sustainable infrastructure and services for its residents is the key.
One project I’m interested in is the concept of a regional transportation system. It has potential to optimize bus routes and share costs.
Economic co-operation is important. I want to see St. Albert take on a bigger role in helping businesses thrive here and trial new ways of co-operating such as affordable housing partnerships. I also want to preserve St. Albert as an autonomous city to maintain our quality of life and identity.
While I am in favour of collaboration with neighbouring municipalities on a number of issues, priority must be given to cost-efficient transit, especially between St. Albert and Edmonton. Cost effectiveness also means we must improve our St. Albert inner city transit, with special attention to good connectivity to our bus terminals in Edmonton.
My top priority is the twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive and its connection to Highway 2. St. Albertans are suffering. We have to act now in the best interest of our community. Until the regional Ray Gibbon Drive troublesome shortfall is satisfactorily corrected, I will have little interest in pursuing any other regional concerns. Let’s look after St. Albertans first; I will always act in the best interest of the common good of the community.
Top regional priorities are integrated transit, affordable housing and economic development. Work currently underway for more integrated transit must continue at full throttle. For housing, there are two regional collaborations that are important: the Capital Region Board’s Affordable Futures policy framework; and Homeland Housing Foundation. As for economic development, this will need to be examined as it may conflict at times with our long-standing desire to expand our nonresidential tax base.
Regional priorities are a complex issue that must be dealt with carefully. If St. Albert can acquire lower costs in sourcing material (buses or fire trucks, as an example) by working with regional partners, I’m all for it. However, I believe that competition amongst the regional municipalities makes us stronger and more self-sustaining as local communities and economies.
All the regional issues under discussion have merit, but the most pressing regional issue in my opinion is the twinning of Ray Gibbon Drive. Having to drive this route every day, I can’t imagine the gridlock that we will experience as our new developments continue to grow. Immediate action is required to expedite completion. The current timeline of this project in a regional perspective is not acceptable and must be addressed by the next council.
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