With two months of meetings and one budget under the belt of the new city council, the St. Albert Gazette caught up with each council member about what’s coming in 2018 and what they’ve learned so far. Each council member will be featured in upcoming issues.
St. Albert Coun. Jacquie Hansen is looking forward to fighting for the environment in 2018 as she embraces appointments to the Environmental Advisory Committee as well as the Sturgeon River Watershed Alliance.
“That’s a big deal for me because one of the reasons why we moved here was because of the green space, the pathways and the outdoor space,” she said.
“It’s a big, big learning curve. There’s so much about the river you think you know, but it’s a whole entity unto itself and there’s so much to protect.”
Hansen said she wants to see extra effort put in by the city toward conserving St. Albert’s river valley.
That’s going to take regional efforts, she said, prompting her to anticipate advocacy work once committees begin meeting in earnest.
Since the Sturgeon River runs through several municipalities, she expects St. Albert will need to liaise with those other communities in order to truly protect the river valley.
Speaking of regional collaboration, Hansen’s priority going forward is advocacy for an expansion to Ray Gibbon Drive, which she sees as essential to encouraging growth of St. Albert’s commercial sector.
“I think we have to really think through this a little differently,” she said. “We have to talk about Ray Gibbon Drive in the broader sense.”
That means taking into consideration municipalities such as Edmonton and Parkland County. With no provincial funding currently in the wings, Hansen believes the road needs to be established as a regional priority in order for more funding options to become available.
Both the river valley and Ray Gibbon dominate Hansen’s priorities for council’s upcoming strategic planning session, which is set to take place Jan. 11 and 12. A third issue she cites is economic development.
“I want St. Albert to be seen as a place to come and hang your hat for both your business and your home,” she said.
“I think we could improve on that, and maybe part of that is leadership – we have new leadership administratively, we have new leadership in council … so hopefully by the end of four years we move the needle on, hey, come to St. Albert – it’s a great place to live and work.”
Good governance is key to the city’s success, she said. Under that umbrella lies everything from budget deliberations to how council approaches its role.
“We just need to keep improving,” she said.
As for St. Albert specifically, some surprises have already reared their heads for Hansen in the two months since she was elected on Oct. 16 – chiefly, the number of people who want some control put in place for roaming and stray cats.
“I was just surprised at the amount of people who contacted me over cats,” she said.
“We maybe need to just put this thing to bed once and for all.”
That topic led to a learning experience for Hansen, who voted in favour of a $20,000 survey and report on cat restrictions.
“I made the decision at the time that I wanted to make, but you go and listen to people afterwards and you think, well, $20,000 is a lot of money,” she said.
“It wasn’t that I totally regretted that, but I questioned (my decision). I think there’s going to be a little bit of that going forward.”