I arrived in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on Thursday evening, 21 May, for the biennial conference of the International Association for the Study of the Commons. Once again I am being generously funded by the Elinor Ostrom Award. I travelled with John Powell from the Countryside and Community Research Institute of Gloucester University (CCRI).
The next morning the Edmonton Journal carried a story that the National Geographic has chosen the city as one of the top ten places to visit this summer. So far, I am not convinced.
I am staying on the University of Alberta North Campus, which is to the south of the North Saskatchewan River, whereas downtown is to the north of the river. There is an extensive park along the river valley which I shall write about later.
The main road through the campus, 87th Avenue, is wide with some unusual and unlovely buildings.
For a city of 900,000 population,* the streets seem fairly quiet. The side roads through this part of town are attractive, lined with trees .There are some nice houses too, reminiscent of our plotlands.
Downtown architecture on the other hand has little to commend it.
The province’s legislature building has a certain grandeur. It was built between 1907 and 1913 in the beaux arts style. The first floor is faced with Vancouver Island granite and the upper floors are of sandstone from Calgary. It is literally at the top of the town.
Edmonton developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Its wealth is from the oil industry, the vast and devastating oil sands, such as the Athabasca oil sands, of North East Alberta. The oil industry is facing a major problem: British Columbia will not allow it to construct a pipeline through the province to extract the oil. There is an increasing threat from fracking. I expect to hear more about this at the conference this week.
The politics of Alberta have recently swung to the left after many years of a right-wing government, with the election as premier of the New Democratic Party’s Rachel Notley. I am told that this may be because many younger people voted this time, and that the population is getting fed up with austerity and the NDP will spend rather than cut—if only we had a government which saw such sense.
*The census metropolitan area has a population of over one million, making Edmonton the northernmost north American city with a population of over one million.