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Image: Stéphane Lavoie. Bear Creek Reservoir. Grande Prairie, AB

Across Alberta, many communities are struggling to balance the complex relationship between town and county. In Grande Prairie, AB, there are ongoing disagreements between the “rural” (county) area which has access to much of the linear and industrial tax base (including pipelines and plants), and the city, which is dependent on residential taxes to finance municipal services and infrastructure. These problems have been exacerbated by the county’s aims to create their own suburban and retail areas, as well as the city’s inability to control highway corridor development. The city is thus not only left with large service costs as a regional hub, but is being choked by surrounding development and has to compete for tax dollars and development with a rural jurisdiction, which is by nature cheaper to run and can easily offer lower taxes. The city was granted approval for a significant annexation of the surrounding area, which resolved some of the issues, but there are certain groups that would like to take things further. Although there are long periods of time in local history where there has been no strong distinction between rural and urban identities, particularly as the county boosts suburban development, the new tension between municipalities can suddenly awaken and exacerbate older conflicts between these groups, where one again identifies as “rural” or “urban” and revisits old fights.

(and alliances) over time. Learning to participate in governance that way makes a community more adaptable. Overlapping identities and movement between roles can foster empathy and the flexibility to shift perspectives, without which governance can fall into identity politics, which tend to freeze and harden conflicts. Conflicts have the unfortunate habit of coming back. This is relevant for understanding the dynamics of communities trying to get themselves out of a slump. The memory of old conflicts can revive old feelings of injustice, old factional lines. One can never predict which old conflict may be awakened in a new context; however, times of community reinvention

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Boom and Bust: a guide

Profile for University of Alberta Extension

Boom & Bust: A Guide, Managing Ups and Downs in Communities  

Boom and Bust: A Guide is the result of a collective effort at the University of Alberta to better understand the dramatic ups and downs whi...

Boom & Bust: A Guide, Managing Ups and Downs in Communities  

Boom and Bust: A Guide is the result of a collective effort at the University of Alberta to better understand the dramatic ups and downs whi...

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