Envision Edmonton’s petition insufficient, City Centre Airport phased closure will continue

Yesterday the declaration of the City Clerk was released, stating that the petition put forward by Envision Edmonton was not sufficient, for two reasons:

  • There were no more than 73,657 valid signatures.
  • The petition was not brought within 60 days of Council’s decision to close the airport.

According to the Municipal Government Act (MGA) that means that City Council was not required to take any notice of the petition. They debated the issue in their final meeting before the election, and voted 10-3 against including a question on the ballot. The vote breakdown was exactly the same as it was in July 2009, when Council voted in favor of a phased closure of the City Centre Airport. Here are some of the quotes from the meeting:

  • “The decision to not put a question on the ballot is the right one for Edmonton.” – Mayor Mandel
  • “For some unknown reason it took 11 months to get a petition.” – Mayor Mandel
  • “This needs to end.” – Mayor Mandel
  • “This motion is the same year late as the petition. This needed to happen last year.” – Councillor Iveson
  • “I am not prepared to support something that could lead to 42 years of inefficient operation.” – Councillor Anderson
  • “Somebody has to have the guts to say enough is enough.” – Councillor Henderson
  • “I am prepared to stand up and say I did eight months of research on this issue.” – Councillor Krushell
  • “Is this the only big decision we’ve made in the last three years?” – Councillor Sohi

In both the meeting and a media briefing, we learned more about the petition verification process.

  • Roughly 80 staff worked for more than 3700 hours to verify the petition. About 60 of those staff were hired specifically for the verification process.
  • One of the first things the City had to do was photocopy every page of the petition. The copies and the originals are now stored in a vault, where they will remain for at least 5 years.
  • It turns out Envision Edmonton did not contact the City Clerk about its petition. If it had done so, it might have learned about the 60 day requirement.
  • Had the petition been valid and sufficient, the outcome of the question would have been binding for ten years. If Council had decided to put a question on the ballot anyway, its outcome would not have been binding.
  • The total cost for the verification is estimated at between $125,000 and $150,000.
  • Banister Research was hired to help complete the verification, which they did via telephone.
  • The petition signatories (addresses) were compared against both the Edmonton Elections database (current as of 2009) and SLIM (Spatial Land Inventory Management).
  • Since the July 2009 decision, the City has incurred costs of $12 million, while ERAA has incurred costs of more than $23 million.

Links

Lots of people have written about this already. Here are some relevant links:

Resources

PDF Municipal Government Act (2.4 MB)

PDF Declaration of the City Clerk (689 KB)

PDF Report on the Petition (55 KB)

Final Thoughts

I don’t for a second think the battle over the City Centre Airport is finished. I’m sure we’ll see additional challenges and fights in the weeks and months ahead. Edmonton Airports seems to think so as well, launching Share The Facts today. I am confident that City Council made the right decision yesterday however, and I think they’ll be rewarded for it on October 18.

Closing the City Centre Airport is the right decision for Edmonton’s future. Yesterday was simply another step along the way to making that future a reality.

6 thoughts on “Envision Edmonton’s petition insufficient, City Centre Airport phased closure will continue

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