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Report must see regional context

After months of waiting, the public will finally hear from the man hired to look into how things are done in the City of Cold Lake.

After months of waiting, the public will finally hear from the man hired to look into how things are done in the City of Cold Lake. Municipal consulting guru George Cuff will make his provincially ordered inspection report public on Wednesday evening at the Lakeland Inn.

What will Cuff have to say in his 200-page report?

That's the $64,000 question. Actually, the question is undoubtedly about a lot more than $64,000. It goes to the relationships between Cold Lake and its two closest neighbours, the MD of Bonnyville and the Town of Bonnyville.

If Cuff treads around the testy relationship of the three key municipal players in the region (no offence, Glendon) his report won't have been a complete waste of time, but it also won't be as relevant as it should be to residents inside and outside the city's border. And it certainly won't lead to significant improvements for city and MD taxpayers.

Yes, there are things the City of Cold Lake could and should improve on — from its website to its pothole patching, there are loads of opportunities to do things better. That said, that's generally the case with any municipality, and Cold Lake shouldn't be an exception. The difference between Cold Lake and many other municipalities that are reviewed with better governance in mind is that better governance isn't as tangible as it might be in a municipality that's less linked to its neighbours.

That's because what is better for Cold Lake has the potential, at least, to be bad for its neighbours. What's better for Cold Lake might also be better for its municipal neighbours.

There are win-lose, win-win and lose-lose situations in this world, and Cuff's report has the potential, we believe, to create some significant win-win opportunities.

What concerns us is that those opportunities will be relatively tough to capitalize on if rhetoric and bad feelings about past conflicts keep our municipal leaders from advancing on issues together — everything from securing a reliable, high quality long-term potable water source for the region to designing public transit options for a more populous Lakeland in 2025.

The bottom line, whether we like it or not, is that northeast Alberta communities dependent on the same industries have a lot in common, and they're likely to succeed on issues that matter when they work on them together.

There's no need for the most populous community in the region to make the rules, but we're all better off if it's a friend in a very long-term game. Our bet is that Cuff knows that quite well, and that his report will acknowledge it.


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