What's your opinion of the MDP big moves?

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Focus on people and community

A community is both a physical and social environment. and at the heart of all our communities are the people. Through the new place and community-based approach, the MDP will focus on the people and communities of Wood Buffalo first by ensuring residents have access to their daily needs within accessible, safe environments, and are afforded a wealth of social, cultural, recreational, and employment opportunities that support healthy and fulfilling lives. By focusing on the strength of its people and communities, the Region will enhance the high quality of life already offered here. 

Establish Green and Blue Networks

Wood Buffalo is a place of untamed boreal forest, expansive pristine river networks, and bountiful flora and fauna. A “Green Network” connecting natural open spaces across the Region will expand and connect existing trails, increase recreation and mobility options, enhance open space, and improve access to natural areas in an environmentally responsible manner. A “Blue Network” of waterfront along Wood Buffalo rivers will use a contextually sensitive approach to create river recreation hubs and improve flood protection, recognizing the historic connection many Wood Buffalo communities have to water. Together, the Green and Blue Networks will balance the need to preserve sensitive landscapes with the desire to access these natural wonders throughout the region for generations to come.  

Leverage existing assets and expertise

As the economy continues to evolve, Wood Buffalo is poised to face new challenges and opportunities as a global centre for excellence for industrial ingenuity and expertise. With one of the most highly-educated populations in North America and a centre to technological innovation in resource extraction, Wood Buffalo is well-positioned to leverage its existing expertise into innovative, new opportunities. The new MDP will promote the pursuit of local innovation through supporting business incubator spaces, and increased post-secondary education opportunities, and act as a catalyst for partnerships and relationships to support potential economic diversification opportunities. The MDP highlights ways to capitalize on existing assets, such as the natural landscape, to provide increased economic, exploration, and outdoor recreation opportunities. Building on Wood Buffalo’s existing assets and expertise will provide greater economic balance, stability, and opportunity, and a higher quality of life for residents. 

Simplify the transportation network

Quality of life and livability throughout Wood Buffalo are directly impacted by how seamlessly people and goods can move throughout the Region. While substantial transportation infrastructure has been developed by the private sector to support industry, more can be done to facilitate the mobility of all Wood Buffalo residents. The MDP aims to simplify and right-size the transportation network to Wood Buffalo’s current reality, optimizing existing transit options, improving efficiency of the roads, and providing more options for mobility throughout the Region.

Foster the Lower Townsite as the heart of the Region

As the economic centre of Wood Buffalo, Fort McMurray has developed into the Region’s hub, a place where culture, amenities, education, and nature all intersect. In turn, the Lower Townsite acts as the heart of Fort McMurray. The MDP recognizes that the 2021 Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan is the appropriate vehicle for guiding future development of the Lower Townsite. By reaffirming the Lower Townsite as the heart of the Region, the MDP will emphasize connections to MacDonald Island and grow into an exciting arts, entertainment, and cultural district within the Region. 

Evidence based approach to work camps

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo is unique in that it is one of, if not the, largest examples of labour accommodation work camps in the world. The new MDP recognizes that project accommodations will continue to provide housing for those on short-term and contract employment, and that for many workers in more remote operations, project accommodations may be substantially more desirable locations to reside temporarily rather than commuting from Fort McMurray. 

Despite this, it is a realistic and reasonable expectation that full-time employees of industrial operations in proximity to Fort McMurray should live within the urban service area rather than in project accommodations. The MDP proposes the use of a new, distance-travelled approach to calculating a reasonable commute distance, instead of the existing as-the-crow-flies distance approach, along with additional criteria for implementation to be prepared in collaboration with industry liaison groups. The distance-travelled approach calculates the actual distance a vehicle travels using accessible and existing roads, determining a more realistic and accurate reasonable commute distance calculation for employees. A new approach to project accommodations is necessary and must be co-developed with industry to ensure it can be successfully implemented.

Increase arts and cultural representation and collaboration

Wood Buffalo’s cultural identity is rooted in a rich First Nations and Métis heritages, and has expanded with economic prosperity to new residents from across Canada and the around the world. Quality of life for all is enhanced through opportunities to celebrate the unique cultures of the Region. Promotion of and participation in diverse arts and cultural activities provide educational opportunities and brings people together to foster a safe and inclusive sense of community belonging. The new MDP will also focus on increased collaboration with local communities to provide opportunities for people to make their voices heard, express their ideas, and tell their stories. 

No additional growth areas

In 2011, projections indicated that Wood Buffalo’s population would more than double by 2030, reaching over 230,000 people. As this growth has not happened due to floods, fires, and changing economic conditions, the Municipality has prepared several new sets of population projections, all of which establish a clear expectation that for the next 20 years the Region’s population will remain largely stable. Equipped with this information, the MDP does not allow the development of additional growth areas until existing areas identified for growth are built. These existing areas are indicated by the “potential” or “future” residential or employment areas in the Urban Service Area and Hamlets generalized land use concepts.

Wood Buffalo’s development industry has indicated clear support for this approach as it allows existing developments to fully build out without competition from new growth areas that could compromise the Region’s long-term success. This approach also allows the Municipality to focus its efforts and investments on existing communities, allowing the prioritization of enhancing the amenities, sense of place, and communities that already exist. 

Emphasize rural communities

Wood Buffalo is one of the largest municipalities in Canada. Due to its size, the MDP incorporates guidance for both urban and rural communities, as well as for the Region as a whole. Through increased collaboration with rural communities, the MDP will emphasize their unique needs and importance within the Region.

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