Dec 05, 2016
Dear Mr. Mosleh,

Re: Fort Saskatchewan Record, December 2, 2016 “Capital Region Board pointless without cooperation”

As CEO of the Capital Region Board I must respond to your comments as above.

I agree wholeheartedly that collaborations without cooperation (and compromise) do little to make honest contributions to regional issues.  I do think however, it is important to clarify what exactly the role of the CRB is, what it is not, how it contributes to the Edmonton Metropolitan Region. And how that it is important to the prosperity of the region at large – and its citizens.
Contrary to the impression left by your comments, annexations are about municipal jurisdiction. They are NOT part of the CRB mandate, nor does the Board comment on annexations. In fact, the Board’s clear mandate is to plan for long-term responsible growth, which does include authority to regulate its members’ statutory plans and amendments, but only as approved by the Board in its regional Growth Plan.
The Board is also NOT the arbiter of intra-regional disputes (e.g. annexations) amongst members.  The Metro Mayors Alliance was an attempt by some CRB members to accelerate action in the very areas - regional land use, transit, and economic development - that the CRB mandate already specifies.  In fact, much of the research for the Metro Mayor’s report Be Ready or be Left Behind was based on CRB work, and its conclusions are compatible with CRB plans. At issue was the CRB's pace and funding, admittedly matters that can be difficult to resolve with a governance Board encompassing 24 members with the diversity you reference. That is NOT a bad thing;  if these regional issues were easy to resolve, they would have been resolved already with no need for the CRB.
Occasional disputes between members is the stuff of regional politics. Our Board members meet monthly - and may have improved relationships between themselves because of that – but annexations etc. are sub-regional decisions that involve whole Councils and administrations, who have no regional impetus. It is easy to blur the lines, which contributes to the misunderstanding of the CRB’s regional function.  Cooperation IS a key to success, and it is cooperation that has resulted in the Board’s current functionality, a hard won accomplishment of a board that was forced into being. The CRB has now progressed to become a civil and productive forum for regional planning, and even increasing sub-regional collaboration.
Finally, for the record, the Board’s purpose is to mitigate, NOT spew, “gridlock, urban sprawl and overpriced infrastructure”. In fact, in October the Board approved a forward-thinking Growth Plan for the Edmonton Metropolitan Region that will ensure we are prepared for the million new residents coming in the next 30 years. In 30 years, as a result of this Growth Plan, the region will save $5 billion dollars in land and infrastructure costs, by densifying thoughtfully and thinking through the future of regional transportation and housing, and the myriad of interconnections that make the region work. Land will be preserved – the vast majority of which will be agricultural – in the order of 250 quarter sections, which is about the size of today’s St. Albert, Spruce Grove, Sherwood Park and Bruderheim combined.
These decisions are difficult and complex, and the CRB is the only place where a holistic view of what is best for the region is considered.  
This level of cooperation and accomplishment makes the board’s existence far from pointless. 

Malcolm Bruce, CEO
Capital Region Board