By GRAHAM HICKS
I have reported on the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC) since its inception in 1993.
This octopus of an organization, with many arms doing many things for the City of Edmonton, is weird but important.
It has a board of directors, but the city is its biggest funder ($20 million of its $70 million annual budget) and the City of Edmonton is its official owner.
Its CEO is the de-facto leader of Edmonton’s business community.
That leader, whoever it may be, usually makes one important speech a year to that community — reporting on the economic state of Edmonton, defining what needs to be done for the community and in particular by EEDC, and how to get there.
In other words, being a leader.
I’ve gotta tell ya, the first major speech by EEDC’s latest CEO, at Tuesday’s EEDC Annual Impact Luncheon, was as tepid and timid a response to the current economic slowdown as I’ve ever heard from any past EEDC CEO.
That illustrious bunch includes Rick LeLacheur, Jim Edwards, Allan Scott, Ron Gilbertson and Brad Ferguson — who stepped down in 2018 after five years on the job.
The new CEO, Derek Hudson, said nothing of substance!
No plan, no immediate strategies, no reporting on Edmonton’s 2018 economy from an EEDC point-of-view, no tangible enunciated goals, no call to action, no report to the community on the merger of the Convention Centre and the EXPO Centre … Just an endless repetition of the words “prosperity” and “resilience.”
Past CEOs weren’t afraid to ruffle feathers. They were advocates for Edmonton and challenged the province and/or the feds, even city council itself, on policies (or non-policies) impacting the economic health of Edmonton.
Hudson seems to approach the position as a City of Edmonton employee, not a leader. He said he’d not challenge any economic policy of the city, as it “owns” EEDC.
Hmmm … does that mean Hudson and the EEDC will be silent (in public) on a most pressing local business issue — companies leaving Edmonton for lower-taxed regional jurisdictions?
Let’s stick to our own knitting, he said. We can’t control the price of oil or the building of pipelines, so let’s focus on prosperity and resilience — those words used over-and-over without context.
It’s hard to imagine an Allan Scott or a Ron Gilbertson or a Brad Ferguson rolling over so easily.
In such a speech, especially in an election year, they would have spoken out on national issues critical to Edmonton, i.e. build those damned pipelines, prime minister Trudeau! They would have talked about policies and actions needed by business and all levels of government to Make Edmonton Great Again.
But … nothing.
Hudson’s plan is to make a plan.
We — Edmontonians — are to gather together for a “conversation” (a word so overused as to be meaningless). A “consensus” will arise, out of which will come an economic development plan.
Shades of Justin Trudeau. If we all link arms and sing Kumbaya, consensus will magically happen and everything will be perfect!
Any participant in consensus-building projects knows just how long this stuff takes, and how bogged down it will get. Facilitators, committees, subcommittees, meetings, reports … it will take up all of 2019. The looming economic crisis will have peaked without EEDC action. Rome’s on fire NOW, not in 2020 or 2021 when the Hudson plan is finally formulated.
Leadership is not about endless consultation. It’s about listening carefully, to a certain point, then making bold, action-oriented decisions.
Every past EEDC leader saw what troubled the city under their watch and responded. That’s why EEDC remains a respected organization within the Edmonton business community.
May Hudson’s turn at the EEDC wheel not be the first to wallow in time-consuming, bureaucratic run-around.