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Mayors committee recommends better communication to Edmonton Global

Economic development non-profit is funded by 14 municipalities
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Mayor Cathy Heron says she think at least a couple of the five member municipalities that voted to begin the two year withdrawal process from Edmonton Global will reverse course as a result. JACK FARRELL/St. Albert Gazette

After six months of meetings and deliberations, an ad hoc committee of mayors from around the region have recommended changes to Edmonton Global's funding model, governance, and communication practices.

Edmonton Global is a municipally funded economic development and investment-attraction non-profit, created in 2017, that represents 14 municipalities in the region, including St. Albert. Late last year, five of the 14 municipalities — Devon, Fort Saskatchewan, Parkland County, Strathcona County, and Sturgeon County — voted to begin the two year process to withdraw from the organization with some councils citing membership fees and lack of return on investment as key reasons.

RELATED: Strathcona and Sturgeon County's withdrawal from Edmonton Global could be a 'wake-up call': Heron

In response to more than a third of member municipalities signalling their intent to leave, St. Albert's Mayor Cathy Heron and six other mayors formed a committee in January to discuss and develop recommendations for the future of Edmonton Global. Those recommendations were received and accepted by Edmonton Global's board on June 21, according to a statement published by the organization the same day.

Sherri Bouslama, Edmonton Global's senior manager of brand and communications, said in an email she couldn't share what the specific recommendations were, as “partners were told their input would be confidential and the results would only be shared with the shareholder group and Edmonton Global’s board and team.”

However, Heron said there were four main recommendations, all of which will require further work and action.

“They revolve a lot around getting the shareholders, so the municipalities, to have better lines of communication and better exposure to the workings of the board of directors at Edmonton Global,” she said. “Some of the recommendations revolve around improving the relationship and those points of connection with the board, which is all, I think, super positive.”

Back in January when the committee of mayors formed, Heron told the Gazette she'd be open to seeing the organization change its funding model, which currently involves each individual member municipality paying an annual fee based on population and property tax bases. At the time, Heron pointed to the Alberta Industrial Heartland Association's fee structure, which involves member municipalities paying fees based on how much material benefit they obtain through the Association's work.

In 2024, St. Albert is giving Edmonton Global nearly $250,000, whereas Strathcona County is paying close to $500,000 and Sturgeon County is paying about $137,000.

Both Heron and Bouslama confirmed Edmonton Global's funding model won't be changed immediately, although Heron said she thought there is “definitely” still an opportunity to change it moving forward.

Now the committee's work is done, Heron said she thinks at least a couple of the five municipalities that have started the withdrawal process will change their minds.

“The sense I'm getting is that there will probably be some that will reverse their decision — they'll rescind their motion to withdraw — and some that we might never be able to save,” she said. “A lot of this has to do with stuff that is beyond what Edmonton Global can compensate for, and I don't think Edmonton Global should be bending over backwards or going down the wrong path just to keep people on as part of our group.”

“If they don't like what we're doing, then it's sad to see you go but we're going to continue on the right path [and] I don't want to make concessions that are not healthy for Edmonton Global.”

READ MORE: St. Albert councillors question future of Edmonton Global

Strathcona County Mayor Rod Frank, who also served with Heron on the committee of mayors despite his council voting to withdraw from the organization, said the committee's recommendations “address at least some of the gaps that our council identified.”

“It's definitely a step in the right direction,” Frank said, adding that when Strathcona County council voted unanimously to begin the withdrawal process, his council wasn't “saying we were making a definitive move to leave.” Rather, council was only considering leaving the organization.

“Let's face it, every municipality has challenges at budget time and what we've seen in the last year or so is cost of living increases [and] utility increases, so we were just taking a harder look at our budget and what's the return on investment,” Frank said. “That was really the heart of it.”

“It wasn't so much a criticism of Edmonton Global as it was of all the areas we invest in, where are we getting the maximum returns.”

Frank said Strathcona County will be watching to see how Edmonton Global implements the committee's recommendations and how the organization changes, but he didn't commit to saying that he'd change his mind on leaving the organization.

“I think we've got a lot of good work to build on,” he said. “I think it's time to look forward.”

Sturgeon County Mayor Alanna Hnatiw, declined the Gazette's interview request. As well, Fort Saskatchewan Mayor Gale Katchur, who also served on the committee of mayors, was unavailable for an interview, and Devon Mayor Jeff Craddock did not respond to the Gazette's interview request.

According to Edmonton Global's annual report for 2023, the organization was directly responsible for attracting 14 major investments in the Edmonton area, totalling over $250 million in capital spending which created close to 600 jobs.


Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

Jack Farrell joined the St. Albert Gazette in May, 2022.
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