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State of the Municipality: Jasper to co-review governance agreement with Parks Canada

Jasper Mayor Richard Ireland gives his annual State of the Municipality Address at Cassio’s Italian Restaurant on May 11. | P.Shokeir photo

Peter Shokeir | editor@fitzhugh.ca

Jasper is one step closer to autonomy as the municipality and Parks Canada have agreed to co-review the governance agreement.

Mayor Richard Ireland announced this development in his annual State of Municipality Address during the Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce’s general meeting at Cassio’s Italian Restaurant on May 11.

“I’m delighted to say that we enjoyed a particularly productive meeting earlier today with Parks Canada officials from both the local and national office,” Ireland said.

“We have committed to co-review the Agreement for the Establishment of Local Government in the Town of Jasper. It is a significant step, confirming the value of the strength of our relationship.”

The local Parks Canada officials at the meeting included Jasper Superintendent Alan Fehr and Realty and Municipal Services Manager Moira Mckinnon, while the national official was Andrew Campbell, vice-president of External Relations and Visitor Experience at Parks Canada.

In the past, Ireland has stressed the need for the municipality to gain control over land-use planning and development and ceasing land rent payments to Ottawa.

Autonomy has been up for discussion since Jasper officially became a specialized municipality in 2021.

Ireland has since served as Jasper’s one and only mayor.

State of the Municipality

To begin his address, Ireland described the municipality as being in a state of “vorfreude,” a German word which roughly translates to “joyful anticipation.”

“In English, I might less colourfully say that the municipality is in a state of purposeful change, with that change directed at visionary outcomes,” Ireland said.

“Last election, it was lamented that the problem with our town is that nothing ever changes. I have quite a different perspective. In fact, I can scarcely believe how much change we have realized since we achieved municipal status.”

As a specialized municipality, Jasper has seen upgrades to water sewage treatment plant, a new fire hall and municipal operations building, the construction of housing, infrastructure along Connaught Drive and other achievements.

Speaking to organizational changes, Ireland noted the recent election and new council, which has three first-time councillors.

“That there were 11 candidates seeking six council seats and three more for the mayor’s chair speaks, I suggest, to the very healthy state of our local democracy.”

Bill Given also became the municipality’s new chief administrative officer at the beginning of 2021, and Mathew Conte started as the new fire chief last year.

The municipality has restructured to combine departments, resulting in two new ones.

Protective and Legislative Services is headed by Christine Nadon and combines elements of protective and emergency services with bylaw, legislative services and communications.

“The combined focus on emergency preparedness, legislation and communication has already enhanced our level of readiness in the event of an emergency,” Ireland said.

Community Development is headed by Christopher Read, who returned to Jasper for the role earlier this year, and is an integration of the former Community and Family Services, and Culture and Recreation departments.

“Again, the combining of departments will not only reduce our contingent of directors, it will drive effectiveness and efficiencies with programing, staffing and communications,” the mayor said.

The municipality has initiated an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which Ireland explained would help drive their organizational goal to become a more diverse and inclusive organization as well as lead by example.

“The Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee was instrumental in preparing previous council to adopt the land acknowledgment and to further our steps along the path of reconciliation,” Ireland said.

The mayor emphasized the need for processes and procedures that promote “systemic accountability.”

When COVID-19 required council meetings to go online, for example, this resulted in more openness and transparency and ensured the fullness and accuracy of the record.

Council is now transitioning to a hybrid form of meeting that is mostly in-person but also digital.

“Not that we want to, but there is no hiding,” Ireland added.

“There is no guessing. There is no doubt. There is full transparency.”

Speaking on council’s strategic priorities, which are still being worked on, Ireland noted that housing would likely continue to be a major priority.

“We will invest in developing community-focused affordable housing units and the infrastructure to support them,” he said.

“We will facilitate others in developing (a) diversity of housing options. As an employer, we will look at increasing the number of units available for municipal staff accommodation. Most importantly perhaps, we will focus on building the capacity for relationships and advocacy to advance our community housing priorities.”

To conclude, Ireland said he was “enthused” about the state of the municipality and exciting changes to come—a state of “vorfreude.”

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