I hope that the Calgary Regional Planning Board dies a quick and cost-saving death.
Five months, 150 days after assuming power, the Alberta NDP through the Minister of Municipal Affairs announced a comprehensive plan for regional planning in Alberta. The dipper caucus, with no prior experience in government and no announced policy position on regional planning, were somehow able to formulate a policy and strategic plan for regional planning for the Calgary Region. A plan that imposed itself on the municipal governments of Calgary and surrounding towns and hamlets.
What did they achieve? Rolling out a policy and strategy, complete with talking points and a timetable for implementation in less than six months — impressive indeed.
They could have done it. Miracles do happen.
But a more plausible scenario can be taken from the scripts of “Yes, Minister.” A steadfast team in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs had long had a regional plan on the shelf. It was fully developed and scripted. It had been waiting since Ralph Klein disbanded the last regional planning authority, pointing out that it was a bureaucratic waste of time. Waiting for a “Hacker” to carry the torch.
Dusted off when the new Minister was being sworn in. Presented as an initiative that has been thoroughly considered and vetted by all departments. It was, of course, a low-risk plan with no administrative problems and significant upside. “You can, Minister, appear to take the lead in coordinated planning and public resource allocation. It would allow you to take the lead in rational governance and problem solving – establishing you as the great conciliator in this difficult debate. Public consultations would be necessary, and it would take a great deal of your time to attend these public sessions with hundreds if not thousands of people. Best of all there are no budget implications, it would not cost much.”
“Ah,” replies the new and inexperienced Minister. “This is what leadership is all about. This is a project that we can sell. Thank you for bringing this forward.”
Of course, our Deputy Minister did not tell the Minister about the years of discussion with prior Ministers of Municipal Affairs where the difficult and hoary policy and governance issues were debated, resulting in a decision not to move this idea ahead. The conversation would not have included the many objections to regional planning governance that have arisen between Rocky View County and the City of Calgary over the past years. No, these were irrelevant to the main goal of the public service, to establish a new, dynamic and rational planning regime that would maximize Ministry power and bureaucratic muscle. Without regard to market forces which are dangerous, chaotic and irrational (though almost always resulting in better decisions).