Cooperation not competition

Kudos to Doug Griffiths, Minister of Municipal Affairs, for apologizing to municipal leaders for the way Bill 28, Modernizing Regional Governance Act, was introduced.  It was a good start!
Griffiths has a valid position.  Improved legislation is required for better regional cooperation.  A growth province needs a sound framework or mechanism to force abutting municipalities to get along.  After living in Edmonton for 18 years, I witnessed the inefficiencies and squandered provincial tax dollars that occur when 26 municipalities (the Edmonton metropolitan area) scrap rather than cooperate.  Having watched amalgamation in areas like Greater Toronto, we know that isn’t a perfect model either.
But back to Griffith’s need to apologize.  Isn’t it time politicians get off their high horse and start doing their business properly—introduce Bills in the Legislative Assembly, seek and listen to public input, send the Bill to an all-party committee to refine, and then and only then, do third reading, voting and proclamation.
Quite frankly, the brain geniuses in the Conservative Party do not have all the answers!
The Opposition and the media can also play a valuable role in engaging public conversation. Of course, that presupposes that the Opposition and the media do their jobs as well. They need to be agents informing and facilitating feedback, rather than just looking for dirt.  And the public needs to want more than mud-slinging!
The Alberta Conservatives have gone from one legislative disaster to another. There was the bomb shell to eliminate nine health regions and the Mental Health Board and become one, massive, unmanageable Alberta Health Services. Oh, how much better it would have been if those doing the job – doctors, nurses, regional boards – had input, and the decision had been made more carefully.
Then there’s Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk’s recent bomb shell to create the Alberta Campus and his irresponsible assumption that universities and colleges would immediately gain efficiencies of seven per cent in their budgets.  The size of this colossal mistake will do irreparable harm to our future employers, economy and taxpayers.
It was not long ago, the province was embroiled in land-use legislation which was introduced and enacted without any input from those most impacted. Or the new Education Act where the vast majority of students, parents and teachers are not being engaged in the debate.
These examples are the definition of insanity!
But back to the Modernizing Regional Governance Act . . . it’s needed!
Haphazard, non-cooperative growth among and between municipalities is financially hurting Alberta’s bottom line.  But the purpose behind the introduction of growth management boards and the appointment to these boards needs to be totally flushed out prior to any legislation being passed.
If governments want municipalities to cooperate more, they don’t need mandatory participation on growth management boards and criminal convictions for mayors who don’t comply. The province has the ultimate power–they control the purse and the strings that are attached!
The Minister knows which growth areas are problem areas.  Let’s be honest in the legislation.  If it’s just to deal with jurisdictions along Highway 2 or the major cities then spell it out, don’t drag everyone in.
Let’s hope Griffith’s apology, his commitment to talk about the intent of Bill 28 and his promise to consult, happens in a meaningful way. This province needs the best possible piece of workable legislation for regional governance. It’s one of those key components necessary for Albertans to realize maximum benefits from future economic growth.

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