High River leaves Calgary Regional Partnership

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The Town of High River has left an expansive regional body tasked with sculpting a 60 year development plan for the greater Calgary area.

Town council voted to leave the Calgary Regional Partnership (CRP) –which counts as members every urban centre in the area from the titular city to Nanton- during private in-camera talks at the tail end of their regular meeting on Monday.

The CRP is responsible for designing the Calgary Metropolitan Plan (CMP), a yet to be approved agreement that is supposed to govern the future of growth, water and transit for the region.

Opponents say the CRP is afforded too much power under the regional plan and will have final say over any development proposal in the area.

If the CMP is approved, Coun. Tim Whitford warned the partnership would transform into another bloated layer of government, sapping away power and crucial resources from the town.

“The costs are of significant concerns (with) the town’s current share of the contribution at $0.42 per person,” he said of the funding High River is currently providing to the partnership.

“It will continue to grow over the years.”

CRP chair Truper McBride released a statement Friday on behalf of the partnership saying the group was sorry to see High River go but remained committed to crafting a comprehensive plan for the region.

“We fully respect each community’s decision, but a majority of the member municipalities are committed to the Partnership and to the benefits of working together in the Calgary region,” he said in a message posted on the CRP website.

“With 1.5 million people coming to the region over the next 60 years our future depends on that collaboration.”

Council’s decision comes after a lengthy public debate revealed members were almost evenly divided on the CRP and the metro plan.

Coun. Jamie Kinghorn said he fully supported the group, arguing the CRP is trying to “affect change from within.”

Fellow supporter Coun. Don Moore said the CRP plans to remain a voluntary association and stressed the group would not transform into a legislated body with sweeping powers like the Capital Region Board that oversees the Edmonton area.

However some council members worried that the CRP would morph into a powerful vehicle for the City of Calgary’s contentious development plans to limit growth to already developed corridors in the area.

Coun. Betty Hiebert said Calgary’s big population will grant the city an expansive veto over the CRP, allowing the most populous municipality in the province the power to rule against any development that goes against their plans.

“I am very much against the CMP,” she said. “I do not like the veto (that Calgary would have) and developing another layer of government.”

“It will cost High River for decades.”

Three rural municipalities that border the City of Calgary left the partnership over similar concerns in 2009.

Civic leadership in the city has repeatedly asked the provincial government to go over the heads of these objectors and legislate the CMP into force.

However, the province announced in February they would not pursue this route and instead were bringing in an independent mediator in hopes of resolving the regional dispute.

But Moore warns if these talks are not fruitful, municipal affairs minister Doug Griffiths has already pledged to win over plan opponents by tinkering with their chief source of infrastructure funding –the Municipal Sustainability Initiative.



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