The Growth of Cities

Pipestone Flyer

    Once mankind had discovered the advantages of farming over running around the countryside looking for berries to gather and animals to hunt we began to gather together in places where agricultural could be expanded. Generally that was along the banks of a river. Here the soil was richer and the water was easier to transport to the fields.

    As farmers became more successful and crops increased in yield they soon found that there was a surplus in food and began to trade their surplus for material that would make their work and lives easier. This in turn drew artisans and craftsmen to their settlement and soon a city was born. If the city was located along a major water route, such as a large river or along the seaside that growth was even faster as crops could be sent further afield increasing the city’s ability to expand its influence.

    Today the same factors still exist.  Today a modern city still has two key elements to their growth, the availability of water for crops and citizens as well as the use of water to link them to other parts of the world. 

    Up until the advent of the steam engine the world’s largest cities were located around the edge of a continent. Even today we find most of the world’s largest cities located along an ocean. New York, London, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, and Mumbai are but a few examples. In Canada the three largest cities Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver all have easy access to an ocean. In Western Canada all the major cities in the prairies developed along rivers where it was easier to transport the major product of their growth, furs.

    The coming of the railroad temporary changed that pattern. The railroad allowed for the development of communities not depended on large waterways to ship their goods to other places. Now a community could develop along smaller waterways like streams, creeks and small lakes. In fact the railroad companies encouraged their growth along with the governments. Both wanted to fill the land with homesteaders one for economic reasons and the other for political. Soon small communities would be popping up all over the western prairies. 

    Many of these communities would fade over time. Most because of droughts that dried up the limited sources of water and others because they could not produce enough to justify the continued existence of the railroad going to their community. Meanwhile other communities continued to grow. 

    There are a number of ways that a community can grow.  In the beginning most growth occurred just because you had a bigger stick than your neighbors. Alexander the Great was able to annex much of the known world through brilliance and strength.  In England the local Baron or Earl promised protection to the people working the land. In Canada the federal government made a deal with the Hudson Bay Company so it could expand into western Canada.

    By 1905, when Alberta had become a province, we adapted a more “civilized” approach to growth. The province passed laws that set guidelines for communities to expand. We are all aware of the term “Eminent domain” This allows a government to absorb land when it is required to provide the general population a public or civic need. This allows for the building of highways, utility lines, or railroads. In most cases the landowner is compensated. How fairly that compensation is may be up for debate depending on ones viewpoint.

    Eminent domain was first used during the development of the railroad and today it is generally used for the development of highways and utility lines. Eminent domain can cross provincial and municipality lines when the need arises.

    When a municipality has grown to a point where it is approaching the limits of the land available for continued growth it can use a process called annexation. The provincial government has established a series of guidelines and has gone on record that a collaborative approach is preferred.

    When one community sees the need for annexation of a neighboring municipality there is usually a series of meetings with the two parties to seek agreement. Sometimes the discussion can lead to the amalgamation of one municipality into the other. That’s how Strathcona became part of Edmonton in 1912 and Beverly in 1956. 

    Since the 1960’s the City Of Edmonton has made four annexation proposals with varying success. In 1962 Edmonton attempted to annex the town of Jasper Place, Sherwood Park and large sections of Strathcona County and portions of the MD of Stony Plain. After two years the Local Authorities Board approved the annexation of jasper Place and most of the land from Stony Plain and some of the claim in Strathcona County, but denied the annexation of Sherwood Park and the industrial lands east of Edmonton.

    During the 60’s Edmonton also annexed the Millwoods area and in 2008 won a challenge by the descendants of the Papaschase Cree Indian Reserve that once sat in Millwoods.

    In 1979 Edmonton filed an application to annex the City of St Albert as well as ALL of the County of Strathcona and parts of Parkland County and the MD of Sturgeon. It was a massive attempt of a land grab which if successful would have increased Edmonton from 79,962 acres to a whopping 547,155 acres. After 106 days of testimony and over 12,000 pages of transcripts the proposal was denied.

    Three years later, in 1982, Edmonton was successful in a general annexation that allowed the city to absorb parts of the County of Parkland, the MD of Sturgeon, and the County of Strathcona. Since that time there have been a couple of minor adjustments to the city’s boundaries to accommodate the development of the Anthony Henday Drive.

    In April of 2012 the City of Edmonton began annexation discussion with the County of Leduc, but less than a year later the city filed formal notice of its intent to annex two portions of land from Leduc County for a total of more than 38,000 acres.

    The lack of willingness on behalf of the City of Edmonton to collaborate has left many County of Leduc residents upset and has resulted in the formation of the Leduc County Coalition committed to fighting to save the County from Edmonton’s annexation proposal.

    The Coalition has scheduled an information open house on Tuesday April 15th at the Riche Bros Auction center’s auditorium beginning at 5:30pm

    Mike Nicol from Edmonton, Bob Young from Leduc City, and County of Leduc’s Mayor John Whaley will be guest speakers and will part take in a question and answer period.