Posted by David Cournoyer
The past three years have seen no shortage of tension in the capital city region.
Notably, the public flame war between Strathcona County Mayor Cathy Olesen and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel has highlighted the need for more regional cooperation between the dozens of cities, towns, villages, and counties in the Capital City region.
Has the sprawling Capital City region reached the point of regional amalgamation as seen in Montreal, Toronto, and Halifax? What would a one-million strong Capital City Regional District sprawling from Morinville to Leduc look like? Is it feasible?
I’m not sure that we've reached the point of amalgamation, but it’s clear that the provincial government needs to step in to provide some leadership and a regional framework to ensure that the regional municipalities are able to cooperate on a civil level – because it’s not likely that the municipal politicians will put aside their differences.
Much of the regional tension stems from the lack of a regional cost-sharing formula. Think about it. A large majority of Albertans in the surrounding bedroom communities drive to work on Edmonton’s roads every day, leaving the City of Edmonton to pick up the infrastructure costs. It’s only fair that a cost-sharing agreement be struck so that not only one city gets stuck with the bill of repairing the roads and main arteries leading to the hundreds of thousands of people living just beyond the outskirts of the city.
The formula should be fair to Edmonton and should be fair to the smaller municipalities.
On other fronts, there is a lot room for cooperation between the municipalities.
One obvious example is public transit. Edmonton, St. Albert, and Strathcona County have already proven that they can work together on important issues such as the Universal Bus Pass (U-Pass) for University of Alberta and Grant MacEwan College students. A regional public transit service replacing the three current municipal transit services (Edmonton, St. Albert, and Strathcona County Transit) would be a great first step in fostering cooperation, eliminating expensive duplication in services, and could bode well for creating a more efficient transit service for the entire region.