After 18 months of talks, six communities, rural municipalities and First Nations have signed on to the area’s first regional economic development alliance.
Representatives from five of the first six members were present at City Hall on Friday to sign the memorandum of understanding. Representatives from the sixth member, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation, were unavailable for the event, but did sign at a private ceremony later in the day.
Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne said the newly-dubbed Prince Albert Regional Economic Development Alliance (PREDA) will help bolster the area as a whole by fostering cooperation between members instead of competition.
“It’s about bringing people to the area, because the more people who live and work and play in the area, (the more) we’ll all benefit,” Dionne said during a short speech before signing. “It’s not about competing. It’s about working together and all of us benefiting from economic development.”
Joining Prince Albert on the membership list are the two rural municipalities surrounding the city, the R.M. of Buckland and the R.M. of Prince Albert, as well as the two nearest First Nations, Peter Ballantyne and Muskoday, and the Town of Shellbrook.
Mayor George Tomporowski signed on behalf of Shellbrook. He thanked the City of Prince Albert for kick starting the project, and added that PREDA would help bring sustainable growth to the community.
“Economic growth is something that’s critical, I believe, to the long-term sustainability of our communities,” Tomporowski said before signing. “It’s something that is extremely difficult for small communities, to be competitive and compete in the global market, so for us to become part of a regional organization, and draw on that strength and numbers, is just a real opportunity.”
A 12-member board will govern PREDA, with each member appointing one representative. A tourism sector representative appointed by the six founding members, and five “director-at-large” positions will fill the other six seats. The board is still looking to five those five “director-at-large” positions and will also have to hire a CEO. Applications for the “director-at-large” positions will be accepted until April 1, 2019.
The PREDA board will be responsible for creating a strategic plan outlining plans for economic and tourism development over the next three to five years.
All six members will make financial contributions to the project. The City of Prince Albert’s contribution will be roughly $100,000 for PREDA’s first year of operation.
Although business and tourism will be the main focus, at least one signatory thinks there could be even more important factors at play. Muskoday First Nation Chief Austin Bear said partnerships like PREDA not only bring economic potential, but can play a role in healing relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“I believe this is a positive step forward in the reconciliation of our peoples and our nations,” Bear said during the ceremony. “I think this is a very good message to all who live in our region, in our province, and indeed, in our country.”
The agreement will last until Dec. 31, 2021, when it will undergo a review. New members will also able to join at that time.