Red Deer council to revisit leaving Central Alberta Economic Partnership

One-year notice given in January

In August Red Deer council will take another look at its decision to leave the Central Alberta Economic Partnership.

In January during the city’s operating budget meetings, council voted by a slim margin to give its one-year notice to withdraw from CAEP, a strategic organization that provides tools, resources and training to empower members to expand sustainable regional economic development at a local level.

Council decided to work with CAEP on a project-by-project basis instead.

CAEP was formed under the leadership of former mayor Gail Surkan in 1998. Members include 35 counties, cities, towns, villages and First Nations.

Coun. Dianne Wyntjes will bring forward the notice of motion regarding CAEP at council’s Aug. 21 meeting.

“For me we can’t speak about how important our relationship with our community partners and region and municipalities is and just pick and choose when we want to sit at the table with them. We’re either in or we’re out,” Wyntjes said on Thursday.

“I think when you’re not sitting at a table, you’re absent. To me that’s always dangerous.”

Coun. Buck Buchanan, Red Deer’s representative at CAEP, said the budget meeting was not the time to decide on the city’s future with CAEP. Council was working on a tight budget and CAEP’s annual membership fee for the city was about $40,000.

“I’ve heard over and over again it’s not about the money so if it’s not about the money let’s figure out how we can maybe tweak and make it better,” Buchanan said.

“As far as our leadership role and being the hub of Central Alberta, we have to stand up and say we are and we belong. The relationship is important.”

CAEP executive director Kimberley Worthington said CAEP is one of 11 Regional Economic Development Alliances in Alberta and the province is putting an increasing emphasis on regional collaboration.

CAEP is the only organization like it in Central Alberta, she said.

“More and more economic development planning is happening at the regional level as a result in large part because of globalization,” Worthington said.

She said CAEP represents a population of just over 300,000 and with Red Deer representing about 100,000 the city has a larger voice. CAEP projects and programs are developed based on what members say they need.

“I think of the region as a shopping centre and Red Deer is the anchor tenant. All the other communities are the other stores. They are all connected and they all benefit from working together.

“As Red Deer grows, or Sylvan Lake grows, or Rocky Mountain House grows, everybody benefits.”

Other notices of motion to be discussed by council on Aug. 21 involve removing excessive costs for connection to the underground electrical system in the downtown put forward by Coun. Paul Harris, and ensuring the city continues to support the Red Deer Early Years brought by Buchanan.

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