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September 22, 2018
February 23, 2018

Who’s lobbying the mayor?

And a bikeshare proposal

Written by Jeff Samsonow

Edmonton got its first good look at lobbying at city hall this week, with the mayor announcing his voluntary registry. That is, he is voluntarily doing this, not that folks lobbying him or his office can choose whether to be logged on the record. 

It’s a pretty simple criteria to get on the list, which is nice to see. If you want to meet with Don Iveson or his staff outside of a formal public meeting that fact is going to be recorded, if you intend to influence or change either:

Basically, if you’re not just a concerned citizen there to talk about a neighbourhood problem or opportunity, you’re on the list.

And, even then, if the problem or opportunity is going to require a bylaw amendment, a grant or money or other policy changes from the City, you’ll be on the list. We see this with both sides of the Holyrood Gardens development having their meetings with the mayor logged. 

Want to see everyone who met with the mayor and his office staff to talk about policy, property, programs, bylaws and city council decisions? It’s all on this handy PDF. A new list will be released every month.

Clicking this image also takes you to the PDF.

This isn’t part of the way Edmonton’s city council currently does things.

But Mayor Iveson is asking “…other councillors to adopt something similar and that he would bring it up as part of the code of conduct discussions they are having now,” according to Cheryl Oxford, the media relations manager at the office of the mayor. 

The provincial government is making municipal governments implement codes of conduct and Edmonton’s discussions on what that should look like begin next week (February 26).

Who’s in the meeting?

When you look through the registry for the last two months of 2017, it’s not surprising to see a number of property developers and related companies on the list. This includes Qualico (developing land north of city hall) Stantec a few times, including for the earlier mentioned Holyrood Gardens development and liquor store rule changes for a new shop in the Katz Group’s Ice District, and the developers of the Strathearn Heights project, who want City money to move forward with the transit-oriented plans. 

An interesting thing to watch here will be hindsight gained from the meetings. And that’s why it’s also important that this becomes standard for all councillors. We’ll be able to see who’s lobbying ahead of votes at city council, and if there’s a pattern to success. We’ll also be able to tie lobbyist meetings, success on votes and election donations together to see if there are any patterns. 

If you’re a city councillor and you want to prove you’re not in anybody’s pocket, the more transparency the better. Make sure your councillor hears from you if you think they need a lobbyist registry.


Transportation trend

Edmonton’s inner ring road neighbourhoods. image: City of Edmonton

One other thing I want to mention about this first release of lobbying information, because I see a pattern from the meetings, relates to transit and transportation.

Edmonton is about to overhaul its transit system in big ways, with a lot of potential changes to how and where it runs. This might, and should, also include other transportation options like carshares, bikeshares and even taxis and rideshares to help people get to and from major transit hubs, or even instead of using some of our shorter-run routes (and more disability and family-friendly options too). And we seem to be inching toward more regional transportation connections. 

So, in the meetings, you have two visits from Tim Querengesser and Kieran Ryan to talk about what we now know is an attempt to launch Edmonton’s first bikeshare, a visit from Lyft, which has just entered Canada with its first cars in Toronto, and a discussion about transit to the Enoch Cree Nation west of Edmonton (this has been mentioned as part of a new urban reserve plan). You could even link Holyrood and Strathearn to a wider discussion on transit because of LRT connections to those developments.

Neither the Lyft nor bikeshare conversations were about the transit strategy itself, as confirmed by Cheryl Oxford at the mayor’s office, but the timing is certainly coincidental. 

Either way, we see that Edmonton’s transportation network and systems are not done changing just yet and if you thought a few LRT lines and some bike lanes were they end of it… you’re going to need to sit down. After all, this is a war on cars we’re talking about!

A bikeshare?

Back to bikeshare for a moment… this is news.

Edmonton’s just created a bike grid downtown, we have some separated lanes on the southside that could soon find themselves melded into another proper network, we’ve got those pending transit changes and we want more people to check out our river valley. A bikeshare seems like a good fit for all plans.

Why were proponents meeting with the mayor? (No, it wasn’t just to ask for money.)

“The City would definitely be an integral partner in any bikeshare in Edmonton,” says Bikeshare Alberta co-founder Tim Querengesseer in an email.

“As we see with bikeshare examples in other cities, the more a city government is involved and able to control its right of ways, public-space concerns, as well as linkages with transit and other amenities, the better the overall service is for residents of that city.”

And Bikeshare Alberta isn’t necessarily the company to do this. It’s really still quite open at this time how Edmonton follows so many other cities into the bikeshare world. 

“Our work is to push for Edmonton and other cities in Alberta to get the very best service. If we get several partners involved, we might not just be talking *if* bikeshare is coming, but instead what sort of service we want. Do we want e-bikes? Do we want bikes located near LRT stations?”

Along with Bikeshare Alberta, Tim is a journalist and transportation advocate who has written about some of Edmonton’s pending transit decisions. So it makes sense he’s involved in a push to bring bikeshare to Edmonton.

“When we look at the bikeshare data, which shows the average trip is around three kilometres, what that suggests to me is that these systems potentially more than triple the feeling of convenience to take transit,” Tim says.

Montreal’s Bixi bikes are rentable with transit cards. image: Bixi Montreal

“If someone wants to get from, say, the downtown arena to Southgate shopping centre using the LRT, the bikeshare option suddenly makes what would have been a rather time-consuming walk from 104 Avenue to one of the LRT stations on Jasper Avenue a nice, enjoyable, quick bike ride. And because bikshares are app based, what you get is what you see in Montreal already — mobility as a service. Bikeshare appears along with transit, taxis, car share and other options, all on one app. And in Montreal, they’ve even gone so far as to integrate payment — so your transit card can also pay for bikeshare. You are able to get around without requiring a car. Which is the ultimate point.”

Edmonton just unveiled its smart fare plan, so being able to pay for a bus, LRT, carshare, bikeshare and even a few taxi/rideshare trips with the same card does not seem impossible. This is going to be an issue to watch as we see the push to expand, and modernize, Edmonton’s bike and transit networks.

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