Creating the Right Future

The County Plan should be about how to grow the County, not how to limit it

Much has been said, debated, written, tweeted and blogged about the pace of future growth in the Calgary region and Rocky View County, the remarkable prospects of oil, gas and infrastructure development in Alberta, the regulatory reforms that are required, the need for a Canadian Energy Strategy, the need for west coast market access for our oil and gas, the need for pipeline projects, the need for oil sands development, and the need for LNG development.

That’s a lot of information for anyone to consume. The reality is that for the majority of the citizens of Rocky View, these discussions are not in the forefront of our minds. It is too complex sometimes.

However, it is vitally important, now more than ever, to understand the forces at work and the key drivers that will shape the future of our region and growth in our communities like never before; now and for the next few decades to come.

Canada has the third-largest oil reserves in the world, after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Of Canada’s 174 billion barrels of oil reserves, 170 billion barrels are located in Alberta, they are cost effective to develop at today’s prices, the technology is proven and they are being developed.

Cumulative investment in the past decade alone has surpassed $100 billion, and over $400 billion in private, public, government and infrastructure projects are currently being deployed in Alberta. This investment will support over 4 million person-years of employment, the most significant impact of which will occur in Alberta, followed by Ontario, British Columbia and Quebec. This level of investment is unheard of anywhere in North America, and in most of the developed world, and the majority of these investments result in megaprojects in oil sands, SAGD, oil pipelines, gas pipelines, LNG plants, power plants, power lines and associated infrastructure.

Every government, private and public think tank generally agrees with the imminent future for the region, with some being more aggressive and some being less. The Alberta government is pushing forward with Asia market access strategies, US access strategies, more and more infrastructure developments and regulatory changes; and more and more the federal government of is also putting in place the key enablers to ensure the resulting future prosperity of Canada. In Alberta, in the oil sands sector alone, the Petroleum Human Resources Council of Canada is predicting an 85 % increase in the Alberta oil sands workforce over the next 15 years.

The reality of the current situation is that the majority of the mega projects resulting from these investment levels are conceived, developed, financed, engineered and managed out of Calgary. That one aspect alone is one of the fundamental drivers of remarkable growth in Calgary and the region surrounding it – Rocky View County. Rocky View County surrounds the fastest growing metropolitan region in all of Canada and many have said in all of North America.

The implications of the above can be examined from many perspectives, but the economic reality for Rocky View County has been clear for some time now – and it will continue for the next 50 years. Rocky View County will see significant growth in the future as people flock to Alberta, to the Calgary region and within Rocky View County.

Significant growth in Rocky View County cannot be avoided, no matter what growth limits some may wish to create. Rocky View County surrounds Calgary like a donut around a black hole of growth; it is a singularity of explosive growth.

Proximity to Calgary will have huge influence in Rocky View County growth, and it is obvious that it will be in direct relationship to the proximity to Calgary. Many have said that the context is akin to an event horizon, or a circle of influence. A circle of influence in Rocky View County is where activities seem to happen faster, and with more pressure, where the capacity to have an effect on people and communities is more significant and more impactful.

In the context of the singularity of Calgary, how can there not be significant growth in Bearspaw and Springbank? (they are both on the steepest slope of the singularity)? How can there not be significant growth in all regions of Rocky View County. The most essential challenge for us in these times is how to cause the right development in the right place, how to do it more creatively and more innovatively than we have ever done before, and how do we build more communities and better communities for the benefit of all citizens. Place making for the breathtaking future of our citizens on a world-class level.

It is worth noting that although Calgary’s event horizon and proximity to Rocky View County has the greatest influence and pressure on planning in the adjacent areas on the County, it is important that we also do not underestimate the effect of other elements and smaller neighbours like Cochrane, Airdrie, and Chestermere and the influence their growth too will have on Rocky View, and Rocky View major highways and crossroads. Each of these are smaller black holes, and each will see their own significant growth on their proximity slopes and access roads.

How can we be possibly be considering locking in the past in this environment as the new County Plan proposes to do? It does not make any sense. How can we be not forward looking? How can we not be promoting new developments in new locations? How can we not be looking for creativity and innovation in everything we do? Why does the proposed County Plan not reflect this in any shred of its being?

We all also know that growth planning in Rocky View County, especially with respect to land development and community planning is fraught with fear, conflict, and a sense that the system is broken. Citizens, developers, elected officials and RVC staff dread the growth planning processes, especially around any significant future developments. The flawed Rocky View County Plan process and results does nothing to alleviate this situation, and does nothing to build the right future of the region. It is a backward thinking document.

We believe the Rocky View County Plan should have a remarkable vision for the future, that will secure the right solutions and the right futures of our communities in Rocky View, with a remarkable vision to lead the significant growth that will undoubtedly occur. We believe that the Rocky View County Plan should foster and support the best knowledge, creativity and insight to create the sparkling communities we will need in the future. We believe the Rocky View County Plan should build the structures of belonging and citizen to citizen co-creation connections in our communities. We believe the Rocky View County Plan should encourage more innovation and foresight in everything that is proposed, such that we can all be even more rightfully more proud of this region in the world that we call home.

Citizens and community leaders treasure the beauty of the landscapes and the mountain vistas that are a hallmark of Rocky View, and we all seek the right leadership to take on the challenge to deliver the right planning, the right solutions, and the right future for the significant growth in the County that is inevitable.

In this way, we can build more vitality and strength in our communities; we can build more social fabric in our communities by expanding a sense of belonging, harnessing the gifts in our communities to co-create to future, to be masters of our own destiny by creating a future distinct from the past.
That is what a Rocky View County Plan should do and it should cause the emergence of the right path forward for expected future growth for the for the benefit of all concerned. That is what a County Plan should comprise and unfortunately the current one does not.