Wildrose Alliance, mayor square off over airport
Published Friday, July 30, 2010 5:50PM MDT
Mayor Stephen Mandel is showing his frustration after Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith puts her support behind Envision Edmonton's petition to keep the City Centre Airport open.
The group petitioning to keep the City Centre Airport open wants a plebiscite to try and keep the facility open after city council voted to close it.
"As I go around the city I have to say I have found a lot of people who are very very skeptical that this is the right move and I think that if the debate can be held in an open forum where they can cast a ballot in a referendum then we'll know for sure," said Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith.
"We are the elected officials and for her to talk about democracy when she is not an elected official. And sign a petition when she's not even a resident of Edmonton. I think Edmontonians would be concerned that Calgarians coming up here telling us how to run our world," said Mandel.
Mandel also says Smith needs to do a bit of homework before publicizing her opinion.
"There is a municipal government act that clearly defines the roles of the city, councillors and the mayor, and she needs to read it -- up until now she has problems understanding it."
The back-and-forth between Mandel and Smith continued.
"Our votes have been taken away by 14 city politicians," Smith said.
And Mandel kept pushing on, standing firm on his position.
"This is a statement by a party that does not have representation in Edmonton and it smacks of political opportunism," added Mandel.
The dispute comes a day after Envision Edmonton unveiled its development plans for the airport. One of the airport's runways is scheduled to close next Tuesday.
Envision Edmonton showed off renderings of what it wants to see on the airport lands, which includes two possible LRT options that would run west or east of the site as well as a new building hub in hopes of doubling the airport's current 1,200 person workforce.
"What we want to do is expand on the role this airport plays as general aviation airport and tie in the industries that exist and new industries," said Ed Schlemco with Envision Edmonton.
Mandel has maintained that the airport lands will be transformed into an urban setting with residential properties.
The city ultimately wants to use the land to house 30,000 people. The city has already launched an international design competition looking for ideas on how to convert the land into a commercial and housing district.
"Mid-point next week we're looking to narrow that down to up to five companies," said Phil Sande with the City of Edmonton.
Edmonton Airports says it will start to close down one runway in the coming days. It's also invested $20 million to ensure tenants can move their planes to existing hangars or even build their own hangars at the International Airport or Villneuve Airports.
Envision Edmonton says it progressing with its petition campaign. Officials maintain they have roughly 50,000 signatures to date.
The Alberta Enterprise Group provided CTV News with an e-mail sent from City Councillor Kim Krushell's office. It says while the city is taking one runway out of service next Tuesday, it won't actually dismantle it until the outcome of Envision Edmonton's petition.
Danielle Smith is not the only politician weighing in on the issue. Recently, Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald and NDP Leader Brian Mason are now on record showing their support for Envision's campaign.
Political scientist Jim Lightbody says he believes the strong words of Danielle Smith may only hurt her in the end. He predicts it will have an effect on her chances of gaining support in Edmonton.
Smith says she owns a condo in Edmonton, pays taxes and she signed the petition for non-residents and it's non-binding.
With files from Serena Mah