Edmonton mayor promoting food and timber, meeting with Trudeau while in Ottawa

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson  is seen in a file photo taken in May 2017.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson is seen in a file photo taken in May 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Mayor Don Iveson test drove one message Monday night when he huddled at Edmonton City Hall with Deputy Prime Minister Christia Freeland.

It went so well, he’s going to use it again in Ottawa in meetings with other cabinet ministers as a way of trying to find a long-term economic development solution for the Prairies.

“Deputy Prime Minister Freeland and I talked an awful lot about timber and food actually,” Iveson told reporters before hopping on a plane to attend Advocacy Days with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

“Since we produce them on the Prairies, can we create some more jobs, more employment, more wealth, not just for Canada but for the Prairies and producers here by learning what we’ve hopefully learned from oil and gas, which is we can’t just produce it and sell it raw,” he said.

READ MORE: ‘Harvest from hell’: Alberta farmers demanding action from government

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“If we actually want to get rich off our resources, we need to do more to add value here.”

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Iveson, in his role as chair of the Big City Mayors’ Caucus, will get some one-on-one time with members of Cabinet, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday.

“We’re going to require the federal government to be bold in thinking how to modernize the relationship with local governments and work together to bring provinces to the table.”

“Initial discussions have been very positive. I think the government feels it has mandate to get creative on the Prairies and solve issues,” Iveson said.

READ MORE: Food incubator for entrepreneurs, producers to fire up Edmonton’s local food scene

He said he had a great conversation with the premier of Manitoba while they were both in Calgary for the Grey Cup.

“I think there’s willingness on the Prairies to try different things. Hopefully we can get that creativity brought to bear by all orders of government.”

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READ MORE: Metro Edmonton regional board to tackle agriculture preservation

“I think the most interesting conversations that are just starting through the Western Economic Solutions Task Force — which had its first telephone meeting the other day — are around innovative approaches to economic diversification.

“To make sure there’s continuing employment here even as the traditional energy economy changes.

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“How do we make sure there’s still lots of things for people to do on the Prairies?”

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“I think opportunities for the federal government to work with provinces and local governments and industry partners and post-secondaries to deliver those results for Albertans and people from Saskatchewan and Manitoba… There’s a lot of openness so I’m very optimistic.”

The move is seen as the next step after mayors from the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board in 2017 launched what is being called the Regional Agriculture Master Plan (RAMP) Task Force, an effort to preserve the land immediately around the city for agriculture because of the rich soil that’s there.