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Danielle Paradis explores what makes Edmonton a great city.

Why 2017 is the year to get things right in Edmonton

We have big plans, but that's nothing new. I think 2017 needs to be the year of big action.

Edmonton's City Hall.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

Edmonton's City Hall.

The city has big plans for Edmonton’s future, but will this turn out to be just talk, as has happened so many times in the past, like the slow winnowing away of the plans for Blatchford?

In the last regularly scheduled session of 2016, council reviewed their ‘The Way Ahead’ plan and the feedback they received through consultation. 

On the bright side for urban enthusiasts, council’s strategic plan for 2019-‘27 shows that it’s led by progressive-minded individuals who plan big. The Way Ahead champions alternatives to single-occupant cars and diversifying Edmonton’s economy through green technologies. 

But mishaps like the delayed Metro LRT line, delayed construction on the Walterdale bridge replacement, and the High Level bridge suicide barrier snafu cast doubt on their ability to deliver.

With a tax hike in a year containing the unpopular carbon levy at the provincial level, there’s going to be increased scrutiny on council’s spending. It’s also an election year. And while the Big City charter is an attempt to fix the unreliable funding Edmonton and other cities receive from other levels of government, its ability to move forward on priorities like affordable housing remains reliant on those other governments. 

So, from where I sit, as 2017 dawns there are a few big priorities that are set to define Edmonton for the next 10 years.

Firstly, the focus on urban indigenous populations and reconciliation need to a part of the overall strategy rather than a separate project. 

Coun. Scott McKeen reminded everyone at that last 2016 council meeting that the city has an increasing indigenous population. Reconciliation can’t be a one-off. 

Then there’s the problem of racism. 

Although Edmonton isn't labelled as Canada’s most racist city — that honour went to Winnipeg — it has had its share of racist incidents including a family of refugees who woke up to find someone had poured acid on their car and in the gas tank. 

Or the man who scared two hijab-wearing Muslim women in the LRT system by singing O Canada to them while holding a noose. 

Thankfully, the community has always reached out with kindness after these incidents.  

Still, there’s a lot of work to do to make sure that Edmonton is as inclusive of a city as we want it to be, and hopefully public policy will take that into account.

After that, we really need to do something about Jasper Avenue. There’s a proposal before council to narrow it between 109 Street and 124 Street, to help reduce the speed through the area and make the whole thing walkable. 

It’s a decent idea that, despite keeping Jasper as a car focused street well into the future, is nonetheless going to see a lot of pushback from car-loving Edmontonians. 

It’s not just about big expensive projects. Something as simple as relaxing bylaws about sidewalk cafes can help the downtown vibe. 

So far, we’ve seen a lot of councillors saying the right things, but not wanting to take risks. I hope we see a change this year. 

If not, at least there’s an election.

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