Edmonton Global exodus extends to Sturgeon County and Fort Saskatchewan

Edmonton Global exodus extends to Sturgeon County and Fort Saskatchewan

· The Pulse

The councils in Sturgeon County and Fort Saskatchewan both voted on Dec. 12 to depart from Edmonton Global, following the same decision by Strathcona County on Nov. 30.

Sturgeon County said it had contributed about $600,000 to Edmonton Global since 2017, with annual amounts of $137,700 since 2020. Mayor Alanna Hnatiw said in a statement that Sturgeon County recognizes that "regional business attraction and development takes years to achieve," and she committed to summarizing her council's concerns for the Edmonton Global board.

All three departing municipalities made their decisions during budget deliberations. All will remain part of Edmonton Global for two years, receiving all benefits and remaining responsible for all dues during that time. Strathcona County Mayor Rod Frank said his county's dues are just under $500,000 per year. The two-year period is a requirement of Edmonton Global's off-boarding process.

Edmonton Global said in a news release that it believes municipalities should see their membership dues as an investment rather than an expense.

"We sincerely hope that over time, these shareholders will reconsider their decision and again take up their roles as active shareholders of Edmonton Global for the long term," board chair Enzo Barichello said in the release.

The decisions to leave may represent "a wake-up call for Edmonton Global — maybe they need to be doing more outreach with individual municipalities," St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron told the St. Albert Gazette after Strathcona County voted to leave. "It might be a wake-up call for them to get back to some of their grassroots, get back to the sectors that they originally decided would be perfect for economic development in the region … more than just hydrogen and the airport."

Established in 2017 as an economic development agency that today represents 14 municipalities across the Edmonton region, Edmonton Global has seen one municipality depart. Bon Accord left soon after Edmonton Global's formation, due to its budget not matching the development agency's ambition, according to a spokesperson for Edmonton Global.

The latest decisions follow the Nov. 3 announcement of four task forces established as part of the second year of forward/slash, an effort organized by Edmonton Global to unite the region around economic development. The projects are meant to build "connective tissue" for economic development by engaging diverse stakeholders across the region that Edmonton Global serves, a spokesperson previously told Taproot.

Both Parkland County and Morinville made moves to leave the organization in 2020 before doubling back in 2022. Still, the decisions undoubtedly resurface the discussion of whether regional cooperation is working for all involved. Sturgeon County's departure comes just eight months after Hnatiw threatened to leave the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board over a dispute on development of the Villeneuve Airport Area, though her county pushed through a revised development plan in September.

Frank said opportunities for regional collaboration exist with other bodies such as the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board, Edmonton International Airport, the Edmonton Region Hydrogen HUB, and Alberta's Industrial Heartland Association. Sturgeon County echoed those sentiments.

Photo: A file photo from the 2018 launch of Edmonton Global. The launch saw an organization created with large ambitions for regional cooperation to spur economic development. But three municipalities have decided in recent weeks to leave. (Mack Male/Flickr)