“It’s clearer than ever that Alberta needs a different view on governance.
Putting out the May fire in St. Albert at the Citadel Mews Seniors Complex required assistance from several regional firefighters, as well as related equipment.
This great regional support occurs mainly due to the nature of humanity, and in the case of this fire, is also enabled by various mutual aid agreements that municipalities negotiate with their neighbors.
These agreements are regional and sub-regional. Many people, including elected officials from across Alberta, have praised such regional thinking to help fight the blaze, and rightly so.
This begs the question: where is the similar thinking for restrictions, laws or relief related to COVID-19?
Leaders across Canada are calling on their provinces to address such situations regionally, yet it appears that Alberta Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP Emergency Management Committee have failed. not considered regional options and instead turned to municipal leaders to navigate a municipality’s decisions.
City leaders across Alberta have had to create policies on the fly that are often different from those of their adjacent neighbors in the same region.
The regional reflection on COVID-19 policy has been a missed opportunity. Opportunities to recognize regionalism were simply ignored by the province.
Interestingly, however, to see Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reporting COVID-19 data regionally in Alberta, never by individual municipality.
We manage ambulances at regional level, have regional library organizations, have regional economic development entities, manage public transport by region, train sports teams by region and plan municipal agreements at regional level through executives of inter-municipal collaboration. We organize powwows on a regional scale, manage seniors’ complexes by region and fight fires by region.
Regions matter more today during COVID than before the pandemic.
As more and more Alberta villages dissolve into their adjacent counties and we emerge from a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, it’s clearer than ever that Alberta needs a different take on governance.
For 18 months, municipal leaders were confused by the provincial political direction. The province had difficulty managing the diversity of municipal orientations. The regions had no authority. School boards, which are regional, have essentially been deprived of much of their power to make regional decisions.
In 1989, New Zealand began to implement its current governance structure. It is now a country of governance by regions – nationwide.
It is time for Canada, and especially Alberta, to make changes, otherwise the municipalities will continue to behave like the young Oliver Twist, a character in the classic Charles Dickens novel, who reaches out and pleads: ‘S’ please sir, I want more. “
Municipalities will plead for ever more money under Alberta’s current governance arrangement, and regional governance solutions are simply a better answer to help the solution.
New Zealand struggled with its money problems at a time when municipalities were failing, and the solutions implemented then proved that, 20 years later, the country is well governed and prosperous.
Nolan Crouse is a former mayor of St. Albert.