Speed of Edmonton

What is going on out there??

That’s what people keep asking me regarding the traffic situation these days. And I am preparing myself for that question to be asked over and over in the years to come … be it spring, summer, autumn or winter.

Let’s take a look at my back-of-the-napkin math today at lunch:

  • Our 1,200,000 population in the Edmonton region is growing at ~3.9% per year, which means that we are adding ~46,800 new people in the Edmonton region, and adding ~20,000 new cars on our roads … every year. It’s also likely that ~3,500 of those new drivers have never experienced snow before. Yikes!
  • Our $78 Billion economy is growing around ~3.7% per year, which means that we are adding ~14,500 new commercial vehicles on the roads … every year … on top of this year’s additional ~17,000 new commercial trucks carrying products and materials throughout the region each and every day.

Ouch! No wonder we have congestion … and not just in our sinuses.

No wonder expanding our LRT Network is the #1 Priority of Edmonton City Council.

We are not only a winter city … we need to be a student-friendly city, a green city, a fast-moving city, an efficient city, a scalable city, a downtown-friendly city and an affordable city for us to continue to be an economic and entrepreneurial engine for Alberta.

We are a high-cost jurisdiction when compared to many locations. In order for our economy to boom and our businesses to be competitive, we need to focus on the speed at which our people, ideas and goods can move.

Expanding our LRT system is a key investment that accelerates Alberta.

Let’s make it happen.

Time to Move Forward

Many people may disagree. That’s perfectly okay.

This blog is for the optimists, the idealists, the innovators and the romantics. It is for those searching for new solutions and for those who always strive to make things better. It is for the doers, not the talkers. It is for those who want to help; rather than for those who sit and complain – the critics.

On April 23rd, 2012 the Progressive Conservatives won their 12th majority government, winning 61 of the 87 seats across the province. It was a compelling mandate towards a progressive Alberta with a renewed focus on making our two major cities – Edmonton and Calgary – into strong, vibrant metropolitan magnets for thousands of new Albertans. The internal vision centered on culture, public transit, education, and compassion while the external efforts focused on repositioning our brand amidst growing global pressure to restrict our growth.

That was the vision that we elected, and I believe it was the right vision for our province.

The 18 months that have followed have been mired in controversy and missteps. And there have been plenty of issues that have given people cause to be upset and disheartened. I have shaken my head on issues of political interference, precipitous legislation and cavalier budget cuts, and there were many things that gave reason to hold certain Ministers to account.

So on Friday, the Premier took action and shuffled the cabinet, and I compliment her on the decisions made. To many it didn’t seem like a big shuffle, but the changes were made like a precision surgery.

Dave Hancock as Deputy Premier and Minister of Advanced Education and Innovation will return leadership and vision to the foundation of our economy, while recognizing the need for policy capacity and intellect at the senior Minister position;

Doug Horner as President of Treasury Board and Minister of Finance will ensure much needed continuity and accountability to the fiscal plan set forth;

Diana McQueen as the Minister of Energy will bring thoughtful determination to energy policy that is grounded in technology and sustainability;

Manmeet Bhullar as Minister of Human Services will bring discipline and caring to a portfolio of services that needs to protect those in need and of those being left behind;

Ken Hughes as Minister of Municipal Affairs will bring a consultative respect for the differences between our large and small municipalities and an urgency in addressing regional cooperation for us to truly move forward together;

Doug Griffiths as Minister of Service Alberta will accelerate the speed of rural connectivity and the speed of eGovernment such that our institutions do not become anchors to achieving our potential; and

Robin Campbell as Minister of Environment & Sustainable Resource Development will bring an acute understanding of how we need to live with the consequences of our growth.

These, along with those staying in portfolio, are a committed group of people now leading some of our most important ministries, and we all have a choice: Are we going to support them and help move our province forward, or are we going to spend the next 2.5 years buried in cynicism, apathy and resignation?

I submit that the opportunities and risks in front of us are far too significant to let the next 2.5 years pass hoping that some balanced alternative emerges. We have work that needs to start today, not in 2016, and from my perspective there is much work to be done:

• As pipelines move toward approval, we need to start planning for the massive infrastructure projects that will immediately follow;

• As our GDP continues to expand at twice the rate as the rest of the country, we need to prepare ourselves for 150,000 new Albertans, with 40,000 coming to the Edmonton region;

• As the world continues to challenge our social license to develop the oil sands, we need to liberate it as a platform for invention within a well-functioning innovation system;

• As more people, materials and goods move across traditional boundaries, we need regional cooperation that equitably shares both burdens and gains to the system;

• As a larger population becomes dependent on education, healthcare and social supports, we need a revenue model that provides stability and long-term planning;

• As our cost of healthcare balloons at an unsustainable rate, we need to embrace innovation and delivery options that allow generations to come to afford a similar level of high-quality care; and

• As our major cities become the major economic drivers of the economy, we need to redefine what is delivered centrally versus locally within a new municipal funding structure.

Time is ticking away. Everyday. And frankly, we cannot wait for 2.5 years to pass in order for some new government to emerge and suddenly solve all these “simplistic” challenges. The work needs to start today, and I encourage us all to shift our energy from critic to contribution.

I said at the beginning that many may disagree. That’s perfectly okay.

There is work to be done.

But if we want to compete globally, we cannot wait.