Town council reacted positively to a proposed community campaign to add another dimension to its advocacy efforts with the provincial government on the needs of Cochrane.

At last night's committee-of-the-whole meeting, Kristin Huybrecht, town manager of intergovernmental relations and communications, outlined recommended advocacy priorities for 2023-24. 

slide(image/Town of Cochrane)

They were organized under the headings water licensing, community infrastructure, and roadways.

Infrastructure needs include further provincial investment in recreation facilities, seniors lodging, affordable housing, and downtown investment.

The town seeks a commitment for further improvements on Hwy. 22 from the current interchange project to James Walker Trail near the south boundary of Cochrane.

Town administration is also recommending town council support advocacy efforts for health care, EMS, and education.

For a more robust advocacy effort, the town wants a call to action for residents to advocate on behalf of the town. The campaign would inform and empower residents to become involved.

Multimedia tools would be provided to assist them in presenting their views.

"We will encourage them to share their thoughts to the community, and advocate to our MLA, ministers, and the premier," Huybrecht explained.

The idea was praised, especially in view of Cochrane's status as the fastest-growing town in Alberta and the province's push to attract more people to the province.

"They've been advertising across Canada, 'Move to Alberta, Moving to Alberta,' said Councillor Morgan Nagel. "They're so proud of it, so whenever we have the opportunity to talk to elected officials say, 'Hey, Cochrane is Calling.' I honestly think that is the language we should put in the messaging."

Praising the advocacy efforts of the town, Councillor Susan Flowers touched on what is a burning issue for some.

"I keep hearing about us being the fastest growing and people still thinking were a town. Maybe at some point, we need to start calling ourselves the City of Cochrane. We are a city, we are a mid-sized city, and maybe we would be more respected for that if we call ourselves a city."

With some amusement, Mayor Genung was picturing the headlines today from Flowers' comment about becoming a city, but he also keyed in on the importance of setting the tone.

"The province is going to be looking to communities such as Cochrane to facilitate some of the needs that they have, and I think we're going to have to fall in line with some of those things where it makes sense to build the community we want, but to also action and get more funding from those provincial decision makers."

He doesn't want Cochrane to be adversarial in its approach.

"We have to be careful in how we do it. I think that could quickly backfire and I've heard some negative comments from provincial officials about how other communities have tried to do that and I think it's actually harming them in some ways, so I would hate to shoot ourselves in the foot."

He believes that's not the intention of the campaign, but believes residents need to be mindful, saying we can't just go out there and bang on tables and kick down doors.

Councillor Marni Fedeyko says it's important to consult with other advocacy efforts of other organizations seeking provincial action to make sure we're all on the same page.

On the whole, town council praised the success of advocacy efforts to date. It is seen as playing a major role in provincial investment in the Hwy. 1A improvement project the Hwy. 1A-22 interchange upgrade and the focus on acquiring additional water licences, among other initiatives.

A breakdown of the proposed cost of the campaign will be part of council's budget deliberations later this year.

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