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Regional transit commission to dissolve

A plan to wind down and dissolve the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Services Commission is scheduled to be presented to the Board on Jan. 19.
The CEO of the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Services Commission has been directed to present a plan to wind down and dissolve the commission during the Jan. 19 board meeting. FILE/Photo

St. Albert will soon have a better idea of the costs and technicalities involved in dissolving the regional transit commission that came to an operational halt last month as a wind-down plan is scheduled to be presented to the commission's board on Jan. 19.

As previously reported by The Gazette, the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Services Commission's (EMTSC) plan to begin operations at the end of April crumbled after Edmonton's city council voted not to pay their 2023 contribution on Dec. 14, and instead, withdraw from the commission. 

Edmonton's decision meant the commission would be unable to fulfill its' mandate to operate a regional transit system, the commission said in a release following the Dec. 14 vote. 

During the commission's first board meeting of 2023 on Jan. 5, a motion was passed that directs the EMTSC's CEO, Paul Jankowski, to "commence the process of winding down the activities of the commission to minimize any further costs," and to "present a plan for the wind-down and eventual dissolution of the commission during the [Jan. 19] Board meeting."

The Gazette contacted the EMTSC to ask what the plan to dissolve the comission would include, but did not receive a response. 

In an interview, Coun. Wes Brodhead, who sits on the commission's board and serves as board chair, says the EMTSC considered finding a way to operate without Edmonton's participation, but found that it wouldn't work on a financial or operational basis.

"The founding principles upon which the commission were formed just eroded over time to the point that, for the commission model, if we weren't going to work together, it just wasn't going to work," Brodhead said. 

"I think disappointment was the general emotion on the board but we also recognize that the decision is made and you just get on with it because as the old saying goes, the sooner you're paying the fine, the sooner the pain goes away."

Brodhead says the wind-down plan will cover all outstanding liabilities, including debt repayment, and a plan to terminate the remaining commission employees.

"We live in a land where the rule of law prevails, and so the law in this particular case will guide us as we stood it up, and the law will guide us as we stand it down," Brodhead said. 

"One of the interesting things about this whole commission was that we had to stand it up from nothing. When I say that what I mean is there was no governance structure, there was no organizational structure, and there was no legislative structure, and certainly no tax structure," he said, adding, "all of those things had to be created, and so legitimately for us to stand down and disestablish, all of those things have to be managed appropriately."

While St. Albert hadn't paid their 2023 contribution to the EMTSC prior to Edmonton's decision in December, the city previously guaranteed $2,366,700 of the commission's $7-million operating loan, which will remain St. Albert's responsibility as the commission dissolves.

St. Albert city council was scheduled to debate initiating an attempt to dissolve the EMTSC during the Jan. 10 council meeting following a notice of motion submitted by Coun. Sheena Hughes on Dec. 6, but the EMTSC's plan led to Hughes postponing the debate on Jan. 10 until a future council meeting.

In an interview, Hughes said she wanted to wait and see what the EMTSC's plan to dissolve was, and what the anticipated dissolution date was, before bringing her motion to debate.

"The reason for this is that they still have not voted to dissolve," Hughes said. "They have voted to come up with a plan to discuss dissolving, but until the commission dissolves, it hasn't dissolved."

"I'm willing to wait to see what their plan is and then see what their timeline is," she said. 

When asked how the EMTSC's Jan. 5 board decisions affected St. Albert's debate to initiate an attempt to dissolve the commission, Brodhead said that he couldn't comment. 

"In a sense the motion is moot, because we're already making that work to disestablish, so there's reasons why you might want to still debate it, but there's certainly strong reasons why you wouldn't want to debate it," Brodhead said.

Prior to postponing Hughes' motion during the Jan. 10 meeting, council met in camera to discuss the topic with legal staff at Brodhead's request.

When council resumed in public Hughes said, "what I'm going to do is simply wait to see what happens on Jan. 19, which is the next commission board meeting."

"There has been a plan approved publicly to come forward with a plan to decommission, and from that point forward we'll see what the board chooses to do about enacting that plan and providing timelines and giving us a better perspective," she said.

"I'm going to leave it in the hands of the transit commission board to take the next step, and then take it from there."

Jack Farrell

About the Author: Jack Farrell

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