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I’m Gordon Harris and I am seeking re-election to City council in the October 2021 municipal election.
Going forward, the next Council needs to provide an environment where pandemic-ravaged businesses and families can recover and prosper. For this we need consistency and continuity in our Council decision making. I am therefore ready to continue the work to ensure residents of Fort Saskatchewan enjoy a quality of life that is second to none and I am seeking your support to make it happen.
Helping pandemic-ravaged residents and businesses is the first major challenge the next Council will need to address and is a major priority for me. This will require Council to come together as a team immediately following the election to prioritize opportunities for service or program adjustments to help residents and businesses respond to the challenges presented by the pandemic. It will take the collective work of the entire Council to help the city return to prosperity.
During the last term, Council voted to participate in the development of a transit commission for 8 municipalities in the Edmonton metropolitan region including Fort Saskatchewan. I was appointed as the Council representative from Fort Saskatchewan to help develop a business plan for the delivery of a new regional transit model and to improve the delivery of local transit services in Fort Saskatchewan. The Commission was formed in February 2021 and the new Board, of which I am Fort Saskatchewan’s member, is in the process of establishing the operating principles that will support transit service delivery commencing in 2022. Regional transit has been identified as a major economic driver for the region and it and local transit service are “quality-of-life services” for those who do not have access to, or use of, private vehicles or those who wish to pursue more responsible transportation options. Ensuring local transit services reach as many residents as possible in a cost-effective manner will be a major priority of mine in the next term.
In October 2020 I was also appointed to the water commission from which Fort Saskatchewan purchases its water supply. Over the past year I have been working with another City Council colleague to bring improvement to the structure and functions of the water commission. Going forward I will work to ensure the Water Commission has a properly constituted asset management plan and that water service costs are appropriately funded by all members of the water commission. Finding opportunities to reduce the cost of water and other utility services will be another objective during the next term.
I am the City’s elected representative to the River Valley Alliance (RVA) which is constructing a continuous trail in the North Saskatchewan River valley from Fort Saskatchewan to the town of Devon. Fort Saskatchewan has benefited from membership in the RVA and saw 2/3 of the capital funding for construction of the trails and pavilion at the West Rivers Edge recreation area. The RVA is presently planning construction of a pedestrian bridge across the North Saskatchewan River from Strathcona County into northeast Edmonton at the west end of TWP 540. I would like to see this project completed to achieve the overall goal of a continuous trail as envisioned for the RVA.
We have a beautiful city with wonderful amenities and services, and I will continue to ensure that all city services and programs are delivered in as efficient and cost-effective ways as possible. This will require the identification of best practices in each service area to ensure the optimal service delivery model for each service. The City recently adopted a new budgeting program that focuses on service efficiencies but testing the results in an objective and neutral way will ensure that administration is identifying the optimal service delivery priorities and means.
The City is committed to increasing traffic safety and adopted the Vision Zero program which has the long-term goal of zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries. I along with the rest of the current Council supported implementation of Vision Zero and have been working to implement elements of the program which utilizes the Safe System Approach focused on Engineering, Education, Enforcement, Engagement and Evaluation. Specific elements of the program approved in recent budgets included a Bike Rodeo for youth, Option 4 Program which pursues education in lieu of fine option, flashing pedestrian crosswalks at key locations, public service announcements for various municipal enforcement topics, and joint forces traffic safety operations. Going forward I will stay committed to these goals to ensure the safety of all residents including children.
Members of City Council are elected at-large and together the six councillors and mayor represent the entire City. We recently updated our Public Engagement Framework to give specific guidance when engaging the community on relevant topics and projects. As a former senior municipal manger and management consultant I was involved in planning and conducting many community engagement exercises using the principles of public engagement as promoted by the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2). As an elected official I was and am supportive of a planned and comprehensive public engagement process to ensure stakeholders have ample opportunity to help set direction on important topics of importance to residents and businesses.
The City of Fort Saskatchewan has a long-term capital plan which identifies major projects that are required in the short, medium, and long-term. The plan is updated annually to reflect the need for new major projects. A recent study on recreation amenities was undertaken to determine the priorities for expansion of the facilities and services at the Dow Centennial Centre (DCC) including a new arena, aquatic/leisure facility and performing arts facility improvement. All these types of amenities have significant costs attached and future public engagement will help City Council make prudent decisions on which recreation or cultural facilities to expand or enhance and what cost the community would be prepared to consider and approve. When the existing DCC was constructed in the early 2000’s I was the Manager of Planning, Public Works and Engineering for the City and was heavily involved in planning for the facility and in finalizing the final complex design. That experience was instructional to my current role as a councillor and provides relevant context to the decisions that will be required for development of future recreation amenities.
While I was born and raised in Southern Alberta, my wife Judy and I have called Fort Saskatchewan home for the past 25 years. We raised two children here and they have since gone onto successful careers in technology and health care.
I moved our family to Fort Saskatchewan in 1996 following a four year term as Town Manager in Ponoka in central Alberta. I was offered and accepted a senior management position with Fort Saskatchewan as Manager of Corporate Affairs responsible for legislative services including support for the Mayor and Council, meeting planning and coordination, policy and bylaw development and planning and coordinating elections and plebiscites.
In 2000 I assumed responsibility for the City’s Planning, Public Works and Engineering departments. In this senior management position I was responsible for management of hard municipal services including, utilities, transportation, capital construction projects and overall land use planning and development including safety codes services and inspections.
It was at this time that the City was laying the groundwork and core planning for the Southfort area east of Highway 21 including planning of the new highway commercial development at the intersection of Highways 21 and 15. Planning for development and construction of the Dow Centennial Centre also took place at this time and negotiations with land developers successfully launched the Southfort neighbourhoods as they currently exist. Planning for development of the new general hospital in the Southfort neighbourhood also anchored development of the area.
I held this position until early 2005 when I left the City of start a successful consulting practice with a national boutique consulting group with offices in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto. I worked primarily with clients in the public sector including large and small urban and rural municipalities in Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Ontario.
In 2016 I decided to wind down my consulting practice and take a run at a seat on Fort Saskatchewan City Council. I won one of the six Council seats in the 2017 municipal election and have been working to support the current City Council with my deep and broad background in municipal government.
The current Council has been largely successful but there is more work to do and I am seeking reelection to finish several projects including “standing up” the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Services Commission (EMTSC) which eight regional municipalities including the City of Fort Saskatchewan agreed to form in early 2021. This new regional service delivery entity will focus on finding new and innovative ways to improve transit services for Fort Saskatchewan and the greater region.
With this background in municipal government I am seeking re-election to Council in the October municipal election. Please help me continue this important work for our wonderful City.
MBA in Strategic Management
BA in Political Science
Certified Management Consultant
Certified Change Management professional