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St. Albert votes to stay on with Edmonton Global

A majority of councillors voiced support for staying on with the non-profit company.
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Since its creation, St. Albert has contributed roughly $500,000 to Edmonton Global. FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

St. Albert will stay on as a shareholder with Edmonton Global, city council heard on Monday. 

Coun. Sheena Hughes put forward a motion for St. Albert to provide notice of its withdrawal from Edmonton Global. The company requires two years' notice before a municipality can withdraw. Three of 20 shareholder municipalities — Bon Accord, Parkland County, and Morinville — have already provided notice to withdraw. 

Founded in 2017, Edmonton Global is a not-for-profit company focused on economic development in the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. The company focuses on bringing in foreign investment, and enhancing the region’s competitiveness on a global scale. 

Since its creation, St. Albert has contributed roughly $500,000 to Edmonton Global. Most recently, in 2021, the city contributed $167,978 to the company. In 2022, it’s estimated St. Albert will contribute $238,165.

During the council meeting, Hughes said she would like to see Edmonton Global understand St. Albert wants to see “direct benefits” for their contributions. 

“To date, our return on investment has been zero,” Hughes said. “We need to put a standard in here that it's not just about feeling good about being part of the region."

During the start of the meeting, council heard a presentation from Edmonton Global where board member Darren Rawson answered a question from Hughes about how many developments had been brought into St. Albert as a result of the company.

Rawson said none were directly in St. Albert, primarily because the city doesn’t currently have as much investment-ready land as other municipalities. Rawson noted this could change with the development of St. Albert’s Lakeview Business District. 

“Having done lots of financial investment decisions … businesses are looking for something they can get in and get running with,” Rawson said. 

Rawson outlined “five mega-opportunities” that he said could be pivotal for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. These areas included hydrogen; biopharmaceuticals; food and agriculture; artificial intelligence and machine learning; and global logistics through Port Alberta. 

“As a region, we want to go where the puck is going, not where the puck currently is,” Rawson said. 

Bernie Kollman, another Edmonton Global board member, said foreign investors are starting to pay more attention to Canada. Kollman and the board member argued individual municipalities won't have as much access to the opportunities. 

“Health and safety, tighter supply chains, taxation rates, climate policy, and access to talent — these are all key influencing factors we can only represent well as a region,” Kollman said. 

Majority want to stay on 

While debating the motion, other councillors voiced support for remaining with Edmonton Global. 

Coun. Wes Brodhead said while he appreciates the intention behind Hughes’s motion, St. Albert’s ability to provide developed land also needs to be taken into account. 

“I understand you're wanting to hold Edmonton Global's feet to the fire in terms of bringing direct investment here,” Brodhead said. “I think there's a requisite requirement on our part to make sure that Edmonton Global has something to promote.”

Mayor Cathy Heron said she would not want to signal to the region St. Albert isn’t “still all in all the time.”

“This is a long-term game,” Heron said. “[Alberta’s Industrial Heartland Association] has been doing this for 20 years and they’re very successful at it. Now it’s time for us to be in, not just at the ground level, but all the way through.”

Coun. Shelley Biermanski said she was torn on the decision, and that some of the ideas mentioned by board members seemed “strange” for St. Albert. 

“I wasn’t sold,” Biermanski said. “I don’t really understand why they have a two-year clause if they were a group that everyone would want to be invested in.” 

Coun. Mike Killick said the presentation had inspired the opposite in him. 

“When I first listened to this subject, I felt there were all these layers of duplication and overlap,” Killick said. “But I learned tonight that Edmonton Global is going to take a very targeted approach to go to very specific potential investors, rather than take a shotgun approach.”

Killick argued looking at Edmonton Global is key for understanding what benefits the company could bring to St. Albert.

“We may have to invest another year or two,” Killick said. “As long as we stay the course, we can reap the rewards in the future.” 

The motion to provide notice to withdraw from Edmonton Global failed 5-2, with Biermanski and Hughes in favour.

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