Edmonton City Centre Airport ICLEI Smart Growth

help build your smart city.

Ever since attending the 2009 ICLEI World Congress in Edmonton in June, I’ve been continually amazed at some of the positive change, innovative thinking, and idea sharing that is happening between municipalities across the globe.

While Canada’s provincial and federal leaders of all political stripes are failing to address some of the biggest growth issues of a generation – both on the environment and energy fronts – many of our municipal leaders are pioneering new ideas for implementing sustainability and smart growth strategies. Dealing with urban growth is difficult in cities where past politicians have embraced urban sprawl and bad urban renewal ideas. In Edmonton, City Council recently made a smart decision by voting for the phased closure of the City Centre Airport, which will create opportunities for future increased densification in the City core (a difficult and well-thought out decision for some Councillors).

Caution: Hazardous GirdersEdmonton City Hall in Winter

Important civic issues have awakened the citizenship in a growing number of Albertans who are taking action and forming groups like ChangeCamp Edmonton and Civic Camp Calgary to participate in shaping the future of their communities and politics in a non-partisan way.

Using the Internet, websites like CityWiki and Cities Exchange (ht Rurban Fringe) are providing forums for great information sharing about urban growth strategies. There have also been some exciting positive debates about open data and open source government in Calgary and Vancouver that will create more transparency and broaden the ways that citizens can interact with their municipal governments. It’s really encouraging to watch our cities move forward in a positive direction on many issues. When I look at how much has been accomplished thus far, I become more hopeful for what can be accomplished in the future!

Edmonton City Centre Airport Social Media Todd Babiak

is social media triggering a citizen engagement renaissance in our cities?

Edmonton Journal columnist Todd Babiak has written an interesting column on the use of social media in the Edmonton City Centre Airport debate. Babiak interviewed Mack Male (@mastermaq) and Jørdan Schrøder (@cleisthenis) and focused on how social media was used by many engaged younger Edmontonians to convince City Councillors to close the ECCA in favour of smarter urban development.

Enough evidence has been collected to show that social media can have powerful advocacy uses, but I’m not convinced that social media alone will succeed in “turning the channel on the old boys’ network.” While the organic nature of social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and blogs allow for the kind of direct interaction and conversation that radio ads and giant billboards could never, the back rooms and cheque books will continue to play a large role in influencing political decisions in our cities. This is a key reason why the types of changes made in Athabasca-Redwater MLA Jeff Johnson‘s Bill 203 municipal campaign finance reform legislation are so desperately needed.

While the ECCA debate was only one example of how the positive merger between social media and citizen engagement is evolving, there are other shining and nascent examples of other emerging citizen groups that taking place in our province, including ChangeCamp, CivicCamp, Better Calgary, and Better Edmonton. Tackling a wide range of issues from smart growth (including Plan It in Calgary) to connecting citizens and government in dialogue (through ChangeCamp), these groups are forming around active citizens who are willing to take a public stand (both in person and online) for the kind of positive change they want to see in their cities and communities.

It is easy to become cynical about traditional politics, grandstanding politicians, and old-style political parties, but I am constantly encouraged by the exciting citizen engagement that is happening on the municipal levels in Alberta’s cities.

Related Link:
Adam Rozenhart: A shifting discourse

Ben Henderson Edmonton City Centre Airport Jane Batty Linda Sloan Ron Hayter Stephen Mandel Tony Caterina

phased closure of edmonton’s city centre airport a smart step.

I am very pleased that Edmonton City Council decided to support the phased closure of the City Centre Airport. Yesterday’s 10 to 3 vote (with Councillors Tony Caterina, Ron Hayter, and Linda Sloan being the three) puts an end to this portion of a debate that started long before the 1995 City-wide plebiscite on scheduled service.

I am proud of our City Council. They made a courageous decision and have taken up the challenge of implementing some (literally) ground-shifting positive change to how urban Edmonton will develop over the next twenty years. Mack Male was in Council Chambers yesterday and has written a good recap of the vote, amendments, and what the result means for the ECCA and our City. While Councillors stopped short of attaching actual dates to the closure, which may leave some people remaining skeptical about the decision, Mayor Stephen Mandel insisted that the motion was a clear decision to close to ECCA.

The group of Edmontonians supporting the closure were diverse, but it was likely one of the first times that social media has played a prominent role in such an important municipal decision as this. While it is impossible to know what decision Councillors would have made under different circumstances, (which was launched masterfully by Mack Male), twitter (see: #ecca), a large Facebook presence, and a very active group of young Edmontonian bloggers proved that the organic nature of social media can translate into a very powerful advocacy tool. I look forward to seeing more of this kind of grassroots advocacy on future municipal issues (I’m looking at you, Better Edmonton…)

One of the main groups opposing the closure was the Alberta Enterprise Group. While I joked yesterday that this now puts the group at 0 for 2 (AEGs predecessor group, the Grassroots Leadership Group, bankrolled Mark Norris’ campaign for the PC leadership in 2006), I believe that this was a significant legitimizing exercise for the AEG. Although they seem to have a larger focus on provincial affairs, as suggested by their recent trade delegation to Switzerland (which included Premier Ed Stelmach), I doubt that this is the last we will see of this group. With a municipal election ahead in October 2010, I wouldn’t be shocked to see the AEG throw their financial support behind candidates in the Mayoral and some Councillor races.

Edmontonians and their Councillors will now be challenged to put a great of thought and reflection into what kind of communities we want to see realized on the ECCA lands in ten or twenty years from now. It’s hard for me not to get excited about the unique opportunity that the closure of the ECCA is giving Edmonton because it is extremely rare for any major metropolitan area to be given the challenge of developing such a large piece of land so close to the city core.

As I wrote in my letter to Councillors Ben Henderson and Jane Batty earlier this week, the land which the ECCA now sits on has incredible potential for increased smart residential and commercial development. These include the three smart growth strategies that Peter Newman spoke about when he was in Edmonton for last month’s ICLEI World Congress: Pedestrian Oriented Developments, Transit Oriented Developments, and Green Oriented Developments.

There is no reason why Edmontonians should settle for less than the best to be built on the ECCA lands. If developed with thought and foresight, new smart growth on the ECCA lands will bring us a step closer to realizing that there can be a better Edmonton.

Related Links:
– The Edmontonian: Interview with CBC Radio (with @journalistjeff and @mastermaq)
– fusedlogic The Great Edmonton Airport Debate
– Don Iveson: City Centre Airport: Leaning Towards Closure
– Alain Saffel: Should Edmonton close the Edmonton City Centre Airport?
– Darren Barefoot: Edmonton’s Airport Debate
– Scott McKeen: Fifty years of airport rancour must end with decision to close it

Edmonton City Centre Airport

the great airport debate.

In case you missed it, you can watch the Great Airport Debate about Edmonton’s City Centre Airport between Mack Male (@mastermaq) and David MacLean (@dmac666) on FusedLogic TV. Follow #ecca for more.

Congrats to the fusedlogic (@fusedlogic) team for putting on this debate!

Edmonton City Centre Airport

close the edmonton city centre airport.

The following is the letter I sent Councillors Ben Henderson and Jane Batty:

Dear Councillors,

I am writing to you as a citizen who wishes to see the Edmonton City Centre Airport closed. While this historical facility has served our city well in the past, we should not allow the privilege of a small minority to limit our larger future potential.

My main concern is that while the ECCA uses of such a large piece of real estate in the centre of our city, potential smart development will be hindered in the downtown core (due to building height restrictions) and in the core itself (due to the large amount of space currently used by the ECCA). As a Ward 4 resident, I am also concerned with the amount of noise pollution that is caused by the many arriving and departing planes and jets that occur each day.

The land which the ECCA now sits on has incredible potential for increased smart urban development, including the three smart growth strategies that Peter Newman spoke about when he was in Edmonton for last month’s ICLEI World Congress: Pedestrian Oriented Developments, Transit Oriented Developments, and Green Oriented Developments.

There is no reason why Edmontonians should settle for less than the best for our future.

The closure of the City Centre Airport will bring us a step closer to realizing a better Edmonton.


David Cournoyer
Citizen, Ward 4

Edmonton City Council will be voting on the issue on July 8 or 10, so please email your City Councillor at For more information, visit

Amarjeet Sohi Bryan Anderson Edmonton City Centre Airport Karen Leibovici

edmonton businessmen recorded strategizing about city centre airport.

Discussion about how to get Councillors “on [their] side” broadcast live over the Internet.

During the afternoon recess of Thursday’s hearings on the future of the Edmonton City Centre Airport (ECCA), an interesting and revealing conversation occurred between a group of businessmen wanting to keep the ECCA open.

A longtime reader was listening to the public hearings online when a microphone, left on during the break, picked up what was believed to be a conversation between two prominent Edmonton businessmen whom had just spoke in favor of keeping the airport open. Likely without knowing that they were being broadcast over the Internet, the men began engaging in a strategy discussion (there may have also been a third person involved in the conversation).

During their broadcasted conversation, the businessmen hypothesized that there were five City Councillors who would vote to keep the ECCA open, and identified Councillors Karen Leibovici, Amarjeet Sohi, and Bryan Anderson as the most likely targets to “get on [their] side.”

The conversation topic quickly turned to Councillor Leibovici, who was suggested to be coming around on account of her rumored mayoral ambitions in 2010. The businessmen didn’t seem to know much about Councillor Sohi, but one of them either suggested or volunteered to “give [Anderson] a call.”

While the content of this strategy session shouldn’t come as a surprise to many Edmontonians, it does shine a spotlight on the backroom influence that some of our city’s wealthy businessmen are trying to exert in the debate about the future of the Edmonton City Centre Airport.

Alberta Enterprise Group Edmonton City Centre Airport Stephen Mandel

edmonton city centre airport debate.

Anyone who has paid attention to the recent debate about whether to close or continue operations at Edmonton’s City Centre Airport (ECCA) likely will have noticed how much the debate has been based on anecdotal arguments and testimonials.

Supporting the ECCAs continued operation, the Alberta Enterprise Group (AEG) has proven effective at collecting stories from local business people in support of the ECCA. While the buzz AEG has been able to generate is impressive (with the exception of a cheesy media stunt), their arguments have yet to contribute objective figures or solid facts supporting the continued operation of the ECCA.

On the other side of the debate, many of the members of a facebook group supporting the closure of the ECCA have provided the same style of anecdotal evidence, and weighing in with some needlessly adversarial responses to AEG and ECCA supporters.

While it’s hard to have sympathy for the company President or CEO who would be inconvenienced by an extra fifteen to twenty minute drive to his or her private company jet, I am still waiting for the City of Edmonton’s ECCA assessment report (which will hopefully include actual facts and numbers) before I decide whether to take a side in this debate. The report is due to be released in June 2009.

Last week, in his State of the City address, Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel challenged supporters of the ECCA to come up with better arguments.

“Please understand that environmental costs will have to be paid either way. Don’t tell us that your business status entitles you to special consideration, and that treating you like every other Edmontonian is somehow an affront.”

I agree with Mayor Mandel’s point, but it’s hard not to notice that he doesn’t appear to apply the same argument to other controversial development proposals (including the proposed construction and public financing of a new downtown arena for the Edmonton Oilers).

I recently attended a presentation by hosted by the City-Region Studies Centre at the University of Alberta where two American city planners talked about the creative regional transportation planning used by planners in Portland, Oregon. While learning about Portland’s approach to planning, including the heavy role placed on the balance of quality of life and economic development (never one at the expense of the other), it occurred to me that, if closed, the 217-hectare land sitting below the ECCA could present Edmonton a unique opportunity.

While I haven’t decided whether or not I support the continued operation of the airport, new development that included mixed-income walkable communities could provide a smart counterbalance with distinctive character to the endless cookie cutter suburban neighbourhoods that have become an increasingly normal sight on the now sprawling edges of Edmonton’s city limits.