Council, experts say Edmonton needs official process for innovative projects

Click to play video: 'Gondola grounded: Edmonton city council kiboshes project over lack of Indigenous consultation'
Gondola grounded: Edmonton city council kiboshes project over lack of Indigenous consultation
The Prairie Sky Gondola project died Monday, when Edmonton city council voted not to support a land agreement because of what councillors said was a lack of genuine Indigenous engagement. – Aug 15, 2022

After halting the Prairie Sky Gondola project Monday, council members and experts say the city needs to develop a new processing system for innovative projects.

There were a lot of lessons learned about what works and what doesn’t during the few years that the gondola project was in front of council, with some of the biggest takeaways coming out of last week’s committee meeting.

“My greatest concern was the Indigenous consultation,” said Ward tastawiyiniwak councillor Karen Principe, whose biggest draw to the gondola project was the creativity and uniqueness of it.

“In order for this to have been a viable (project) and just the right thing to do, we would have had to have not just Indigenous consultation but meaningful Indigenous consultation. That was very important to me and my other council colleagues.”

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Principe was the only council member to vote “yes” to the land lease agreement on Monday, but said she would have liked to see more consultation done prior to the vote.

“We’ve learned that the proper process takes certain steps…need to be in the proper sequence. I think if we had seen the meaningful Indigenous consultation prior to the land lease agreement, we could have possibly seen a different outcome.”

David Cooper, a transit expert with Leading Mobility Consulting agreed, saying that while the city has been open to receiving innovative project ideas, he added there were a lot of basic questions that there weren’t answers to going into the council committee meeting last week, which lasted nearly 12 hours.

“The challenge is, there wasn’t a process to take innovative ideas forward…there was an openness for the city to have these conversations and work collaboratively with a private sector partner…but the process had a lot of questions about it,” said Cooper.

Political analyst John Brennan weighed in, saying this experience has provided insight for anyone interested in pitching an idea to council in the future.

“I think this project was instructive — not only for the Prairie Sky Gondola project, but for other developers who want to bring projects to council in doing your homework first. Make sure you’ve done the research, you’ve done the consultation.”

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Going forward, both Principe and Cooper said it would be incredibly beneficial for the city to create a process outline for how to handle these types of large-scale projects.

“If the city is to look at doing this again, through another innovative process, we need to be a lot more straight forward on the process pieces from the private sector side,” said Cooper.

With files from Sarah Ryan, Global News

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