Edmonton council votes to change economic agency mandate

The Edmonton Economic Development Corporation is likely to be scaled down considerably after city council agreed Wednesday to develop separate entities to oversee innovation projects.

Council voted in favour of creating an innovation authority that could be the umbrella organization for TEC Edmonton, InnovateYEG, Start-Up Edmonton and Health City.

Right now, some of those fall under the EEDC, which employs 1,400 full time, part time and program employees and has an annual budget of $20 million.

Coun. Sarah Hamilton raised the motion based in part on the Ernst & Young consultants report released Tuesday, which made recommendations that the city clarify EEDC's duties.

City council asked for the report in September.

"It is time to get the governance model in line," Hamilton said during Wednesday's meeting.

The motion calls for city administration to report back to committee early next year to present an innovation authority model.

Coun. Mike Nickel was the only councillor to vote against the motion, saying it was a rushed decision.

The agency's CEO, Derek Hudson, expressed the same concerns to city council.

"I believe a more thorough assessment is both required and warranted," Hudson said. "It is my hope that council will not base major decisions about the future of a number of organizations and the economy on this report alone."

'... it changed from year to year to year to year to year ' - Coun. Tony Caterina

Several councillors, including Tony Caterina, noted the city has been talking for a number of years about clarifying the role of the EEDC.

"Thinking back to '07 and the role of EEDC, and how it changed from year to year to year to year to year, where things were added, things were deleted, things were changed," Caterina said. "There was always that thought in my mind that they needed to focus on something that they could do extremely well."

Codie McLachlan/CBC
Codie McLachlan/CBC

He noted the EEDC is successful in running the EXPO Centre and the Edmonton Convention Centre and does positive work to attract tourism.

Hudson said it's too early to say how many jobs at EEDC may be affected by the separation of duties.

"The EEDC of the future will have a much narrower mandate and that will allow clarity," Hudson said. "Economic development is an action sport — there's lots going on — and I don't think clarity is the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is an effective economy."

The motion included having the mayor call a shareholder meeting for Edmonton Global, a group formed to advance the economic development of the Edmonton metropolitan region, to discuss whether funding is adequate to help the organization work on attracting foreign investment and developing trade.

Staff will report back to committee in March.


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