Column: Province’s mandate for Capital Region Board nets critical thinking and planning for the Capital Region and the Edmonton metropolitan area

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by Nolan Crouse, Chair, Capital Region Board

In these times of budgetary uncertainty it’s important to know you’re getting value for your money. Are you getting your money’s worth from the Capital Region Board?

Yes.

In 2008 the Capital Region Board (CRB) was created as a forum for Edmonton and the municipalities that surround it to tackle the issues of unprecedented growth from a regional perspective and prepare the best way forward to sustain our good fortune.

As a Board represented by the Mayors of 24 municipalities, we look ahead to what’s possible…interconnected transit systems that take you from home to work efficiently…a region where access to attractions, affordable housing, emergency and other services is easier… and where size is not a measure of value.

In 2010 the first benefit of this experiment in mandated regional collaboration was born. CRB members approved a regional Growth Plan in recognition of the fact that all growth must be managed to be beneficial.

As the Growth Plan planted the seeds for regional thinking, the CRB also began speaking with one voice to the Province on regional issues. Last year we began exploring the concept of regional economic development through an arms-length body of regional stakeholders.

However, experience has exposed opportunities for the future in current policy and direction. This year it is undergoing a rigorous five year review and course correction to make improvements that are now required.
We know that in 30 years the Edmonton Capital Region will double in population to 2.2 million with 1 million jobs, while farmland shrinks. That puts enormous pressure on CRB municipalities, while they become even more interdependent.

This is what keeps the members of the Capital Region Board sharply focused.

How can we use the Growth Plan to work together in the best interests of all our communities…to ensure choices in housing, high levels of service, and maintain our quality of life while avoiding the hazards of fast growth, like the gridlock that plagues regions of a similar size today?

Starting this spring with a thorough analysis of what’s working and what isn’t in the current plan, the Board began the process of a Growth Plan update.

The first step was the creation of a shared 50 year Vision for Growth, and then identification of the principles and policies that will support that vision.

Growth Plan 2.0 will evolve over the next several months. It is scheduled for completion and Board approval at the end of 2015.

The CRB has always stood for the linkage between regional action and global opportunity. It is a maturing organization with diverse interests of many sizes of communities to respect and balance, in one of the physically largest regions in the world.

Experience is improving our effectiveness.

The annual budget for this collaborative board and its vital mandate to optimize growth for the future is a little less than the cost of a designer coffee per resident of the Capital Region.

For the increasing benefits of regional collaboration and future prosperity, I say that’s a bargain.

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