As Mayor Don Iveson nears the end of his second term, he hopes his successor will continue to build relationships with the municipalities surrounding the city.
"A top priority is building those key relationships … because of the importance of having some sense of political solidarity with mayors in the region against all the other pressures that all of us in this region face," Iveson told Taproot.
Regional co-operation has come a long way since he first started as a city councillor in 2007, when Edmonton was in open conflict with its neighbours, Iveson said. A lot of current mechanisms for collaboration, like the Capital Region Board, since renamed the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board, had yet to be established.
"The region now rallies behind the name Edmonton," Iveson said. "It's no longer a dirty word for the mayors of the communities around us, but a banner they're proud to stand behind, too."
In a transition memo released last month, the outgoing mayor offered several ideas for future goals and aspirations that Edmonton and its neighbours could work toward following the Oct. 18 municipal election.
One of his suggestions is to "take the lines off the map" and look past jurisdictional differences to build new economic development strategies. He pointed to the area of Acheson and Winterburn Industrial as a possible site for a world-scale business park, which could be co-developed between Edmonton, Parkland County, and other partners.
"That's what collaborative economic development is all about, creating a win-win for regional economic development across borders," he said. "The sky's the limit for co-operation to attract investment."
Over the next five years, Iveson would like to see the Edmonton region promoted as a standout in sustainability, which could attract investment to the region while helping overcome some long-held ideas about Alberta.
The Edmonton Region Hydrogen HUB is one example of what can be achieved, he said. But more can be done through future collaboration on waste management, which could help get to a zero-waste future.
"Investors are increasingly making decisions around sustainability and social inclusion and justice, and I think we've got a track record there," he said. "To build on that direction for inclusive, sustainable growth — that is the future."
One final — and very specific — piece of advice Iveson had for Edmonton's next mayor is to make time to visit the mayors in neighbouring municipalities, something he did extensively during his first term.
"Regional diplomacy is of the most important things the occupant of this office ought to prioritize," he said.