The City Plan—a roadmap for good days, challenging days, future days in Edmonton

On the way to reading the 182-page City Plan, you might gloss over the first 25 words. 

What choices do we need to make to be a healthy, urban and climate resilient city of two million people that supports a prosperous region? 

If you don’t plan on reading the whole thing, good news, those 25 words are the whole thing. ?

But, first, the other news. 

Against a backdrop of pandemic and economic recession, and on the eve of budget deliberations and possible program and service cuts, City Council has said yes to a roadmap to the future of Edmonton.

By a vote of 12-1, Council has approved The City Plan. 

Mayor Don Iveson said: “This is one of the pieces of public policy that I will be most proud of when I leave office next year because it embodies one of the most important aspects of why I became mayor: to build a better city for our next generation so that more of our kids and grandkids might choose to stay here and be proud of their hometown and help to build it.” 

Mayor Don Iveson, City Hall, Edmonton, December 7, 2020.

Technically, Edmonton’s City Plan is a combination of two documents vital to how cities are planned and laid out, how they grow, and how people move in those cities. Those traditional documents are the Municipal Development Plan and the Transportation Master Plan. 

The City Plan charts a route so we stay pointed toward the agreed-upon direction.

Back to those 25 words. 

What choices…

Right off the top, this City Plan is about what it feels like to be in reality. Because there’s nothing more real than the need to make a decision when faced with different alternatives. We choose all the time. Resources are limited. Choices always have to be made. 

The City Plan reflects the choices Edmontonians have made about what they want their city, now and in the future, to feel like. 

do we need to make…

That pronoun we is no accident. This is about us. The City Plan is about the community of the people of Edmonton who have decided that what we plan, build and protect is better when we plan, build and protect together. 

That verb need  is no accident either. The City Plan is powered by the clear-eyed assessment that Edmonton cannot avoid making decisions if this will be the place where people, and more of them, decide to stay and build the value of their lives. 

to be a healthy, urban and climate resilient city…

The City Plan didn’t write those words—healthy, urban, climate-resilient—out of thin air. It was the other way around. Those words wrote The City Plan. 

Those words came from another vital document called ConnectEdmonton, which, basically, puts in print the kind of community we are pointing at being. Healthy, urban and climate resilient are three of the four strategic goals in ConnectEdmonton. 

Those goals came from Edmontonians in what the Mayor called “extraordinary” engagement sessions.  

If the goals are where we’re going, the City Plan is how we’re going to get there.

of two million people…

True fact: we need more people to be able to build and sustain Edmonton as the kind of place Edmontonians have said they want it to be. 

In building The City Plan, the team listened to Edmontonians and distilled into six values what they heard. It’s a place where people: 

• belong and contribute

• live in a place that feels like home

• have opportunities to thrive

• have access in the city 

• preserve what matters most, and 

• are able to create and innovate.

That’s not a list of nice-to-haves. That’s what attracts people and investment here. It’s a kind of economic development strategy. 

that supports a prosperous region?

Prosperity for Edmonton and the region it is part of is the fourth strategic goal in ConnectEdmonton. The prosperity imagined by The City Plan is a shared prosperity. 

And that question mark? It’s crucial. It makes very clear that the future is the answer to questions that Edmontonians put to each other in the cooperative spirit of The City Plan. 

Mayor Don Iveson holds up City Plan bylaw he signed into law at news conference, City Hall, Edmonton, December 7, 2020. “That makes me happy,” the Mayor said.

City Plan in action

After the endorsement vote, Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin said the pandemic hasn’t dented the commitment to The City Plan.

“It will help us to hold firm to our vision and goals for Edmonton, but adjust our actions in the face of disruption, opportunity or constraint,” Laughlin said. 

Now continues the process of aligning the City Plan with the budget, said Laughlin, adding the plan is already doing its work. 

“Projects like the Economic Development Action Plan, the 1.5 Degree Climate Change report, Zoning Bylaw Renewal and District Planning are just a few examples of the ways in which we have already begun to activate The City Plan and continue to demonstrate our commitment to building a financially and environmentally viable future for all Edmontonians,” said Laughlin.

Interim City Manager Adam Laughlin, December 7, 2020.

North star

When it’s all so much smooth sailing out there, there’s not as much need for a north star. 

It’s not smooth sailing, obviously.

As the City of Edmonton navigates its way through the storms of our times—and the storms ahead without names yet—The City Plan will serve as that kind of guide. So we preserve and steward the things that matter most and support the transformative change required for a thriving, connected, fiscally efficient city.

What choices do we need to make to be a healthy, urban and climate resilient city of two million people that supports a prosperous region? 

Here’s The City Plan—if you want to read it all.