As Amarjeet Sohi begins his first full year as mayor, he plans to turn some of his attention to continuing the work of developing a robust and efficient Edmonton region.
Former mayor Don Iveson left behind the legacy of a strengthened region, with an emphasis on collaboration and developing joint approaches to issues such as transit and economic development. Sohi said he will endeavour to continue that work as he represents the city on the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board.
He plans to focus on advancing economic growth, with a particular interest in the potential to invest further in hydrogen, as well as the pharmaceutical, petrochemical, and geothermal sectors. Sohi will also be looking to foster alignment on climate change, especially when it comes to energy transition and renewable energy.
"Whether it's investing in technologies that reduce emissions or investing in technologies that capture emissions and utilization of those emissions, I think that's an area where there's potential for us to continue to work on," Sohi told Taproot.
Another key issue Sohi said he's particularly passionate about is tackling social issues like houselessness, mental health, addictions, and the overdose crisis.
"Edmonton is the centre for social services and a hub for programs that people rely on in the region, but we are disproportionately affected by those social issues," he explained, adding that he wants the region to continue to advocate for support from the provincial and federal governments.
Sohi also wants the city to grow its industrial tax base by working alongside regional partners. He said it is challenging that the rate is different in each municipality, which has the potential to discourage investment in certain areas. Sohi would like to see a model where regional partners come together to share the cost of development, and also reap the benefits as a group.
Regional collaboration will be vital to tackle all of these issues, said Sohi. He plans to meet one-on-one with mayors in the region over the coming months, deepening the connections he already has from previous stints serving as a city councillor and federal minister.
"I think the more we can invest in understanding each others' realities and be empathetic to each other, the more understanding we will generate and the better we will work with each other," he said.
Budget deliberations in Edmonton revealed a city council that is noticeably more activist and progressive than its predecessor, which may set the city apart politically from its neighbours. But Sohi isn't worried, explaining to Taproot that he believes the region is aligned on economic growth, climate change, and social issues.
"Whether you're progressive or not progressive, what I focus on is values and shared goals. Those shared goals are about sustainable growth and making sure that growth is helping everyone succeed. If we can collaborate on those values and those issues, I think we'll be all better off."