Growing Pains

Change is inevitable for the Calgary region. That puts a premium on co-operation.

Growth inevitably causes stress. Think about your own experience as a child. As you got taller, clothes that once fit perfectly grew snug then constricting.

These principles also apply to cities. The process becomes more complex when one city’s growth impacts surrounding communities. 

That is the case in the Calgary region. Calgary and the municipalities that surround it – Airdrie, Chestermere, Cochrane, Foothills County, High River, Okotoks, Rocky View County, Strathmore and Wheatland County – form the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board

Created in 2018, the CMRB is working on a plan to guide growth in the region. Its existence reflects the fact that these municipalities face growth challenges that impact shared issues like watershed management and flood mitigation.

The City of Chestermere has grown by 34% since 2011. (Since 1959, it has grown from a summer village to a town to a city.) That is a big change in a mere 60 years. But it’s hardly unique in the region: Calgary, Cochrane and Okotoks have all seen big changes in that timespan.

This growth creates a certain amount of competition between municipalities. Naturally, they all want to attract jobs and people. Recent amendments to the Municipal Government Act have given them tools that could lead to greater competition.

But the need for co-operation grows alongside the regional population. The CMRB recently released its population projections for member municipalities and the region as a whole. By 2076 the number of people living in the region will nearly double to a little over 3 million.

Some 80% of those residents will call Calgary home. But regional growth will bring big-city issues to smaller municipalities. Already, Okotoks is hard at work on a Municipal Development Plan that will guide growth in the community from 2020-2080. 

For its part, Chestermere recently found a novel way to finance critical infrastructure. Two development companies agreed to provide the funds needed to build the sewer that will serve two new communities. The city gets a critical piece of infrastructure. The developers will recoup their investment as subsequent communities tie into the line.

The agreement recognizes that developers and the City of Chestermere have shared interests. It also serves to point out the value of co-operation. These are two things that should be kept in mind as growth creates stress and opportunity in our region. 

September 23rd, 2019

New population projections for the Calgary region show that all area municipalities will continue to grow. That is going to create some stress.