Linda Cochrane makes history by being named Edmonton city manager

EDMONTON – After an international search for candidates, the City of Edmonton announced Wednesday Linda Cochrane will permanently take over the role as city manager.

Cochrane becomes the first woman to hold the role in Edmonton.

“It’s a very emotional day,” she said. “This is right up there for me as one of the most important things with my career that’s ever happened so I’m over the moon.”

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    Cochrane started working for the City of Edmonton in 1982. She’s been the general manager of the Community Services branch since 2006. As acting manager, she looks forward to “helping people realize their potential as city employees and helping council make the best decisions they can.”

    “I have a huge respect for the office of city council. I have a huge respect for the work that the corporate leadership team does,” she said. “I think I just want to be a dialogue facilitator so that the right things can be debated and the right conclusions can be arrived at.”

    Cochrane was named acting city manager in September 2015 when former city manager Simon Farbrother was fired from the position.

    Perhaps Cochrane’s most public moment in the last six months was in September when she jumped in to calm down dozens of local taxi drivers who staged an angry protest inside city council chambers.

    “The cabbie whisperer incident was one of those moments where I think a number of us looked and said, ‘That might be the next city manager,’” Mayor Don Iveson said.

    “If for no other reason that first, she was fearless to wade into the crowd and second, her calmness under pressure, her ability to be able to bring people back to dialogue – those are incredibly valuable skills.”

    READ MORE: Acting city manager calms the crowd after Edmonton taxi drivers break out in angry protest at city hall

    Beyond her ability to calm a crowd, Iveson said Cochrane has really impressed council over the past six months with her leadership skills.

    “She is brilliant and she is persuasive and she’s compassionate. And the combination of all of those things is what makes her an excellent leader.”

    Iveson said well over 100 formal applications were filed for the position from people across Canada and the United States. Cochrane is on a three-year contract with options to renew.

    The former city manager was hired in 2010. Farbrother helped lead the city through the downtown arena deal and the closure of the City Centre Airport.

    In September, Iveson said letting Farbrother go was not the result of any one project. However, city councillor Mike Nickel said he had lost confidence in Farbrother following the fall 2015 release of an audit report into the Metro LRT project.

    Cochrane is on a three-year contract with options to renew. Her salary has not yet been released.

    “I just got the best job in the world and I’m looking forward so much to working with all of you and working with our staff and working with council.”

Reality check: Is securing a seat on the UN Security Council necessary for Canada?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau began a two-day trip to New York City on Wednesday, and kicked things off with what will likely prove to be the centerpiece of his visit to the United Nations.

The prime minister confirmed that Canada will seek to re-join the powerful UN Security Council after failing — for the first time ever — to secure a seat around the table in 2010.

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The upcoming bid for a two-year term starting in 2021 is part of a broader rapprochement between Canada and the United Nations that began with Trudeau welcoming UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to Ottawa in February.

Observers have noted that the warming trend may be politically advantageous for Trudeau as he attempts to position himself as a champion of UN priorities like refugee resettlement, tackling climate change and stabilizing the situation in the Middle East.

READ MORE: Trudeau at UN promotes parental leave for fathers, gender parity

But beyond the politics, what, if anything, would a seat on the Security Council really achieve for Canada?

WATCH: Canada lost its last bid for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2010, something Justin Trudeau is looking to change with a trip to New York. Jacques Bourbeau reports.

According to Paul Heinbecker, who served as Canada’s UN ambassador during a period when it sat on the Security Council in the early 2000s, membership will allow Ottawa to influence policy at a high level, and that can be critical when dealing with health emergencies like the Ebola crisis, or mass refugee migrations.

“Canadians are looking at the world now and they’re seeing a lot of upset, a lot of instability, a lot of risk that they didn’t think that they faced before from terrorism,” said Heinbecker.

“These things come to your doorstep … so I think it’s very important that we have the opportunity to influence events.”

Colin Robertson, another former Canadian diplomat and now vice president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, agreed with that assessment.

“If you think of, say, the House of Commons, you move from the back-bench to sitting in the cabinet. The Security Council is essentially the cabinet for the United Nations,” Robertson said.

Canada is also one of the major beneficiaries of stable international trade, added Robertson, and by securing a seat, the country “can take an active role in helping to create and preserve that system. Instead of being a watcher, we would become an active participant.”

Additionally, membership on the council fits in with the longstanding tradition of having Canada at the table, Robertson noted, and that’s not as small a consideration as some might think.

“It’s part of what our self-identity is about, more so than other places. Britain and France have long histories, this country doesn’t have a long history. But the history we do have is, in part, as a player on the international scene.”

Conservatives will support bid

Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent said his party will support the Liberal government’s efforts to regain a seat on the Security Council in 2021, but “we would hope that the government doesn’t compromise the principled foreign policy positions that our government took, and which contributed in large part to our lack of success in 2010.”

The Conservatives have always contended that Canada lost out to Portugal because the Harper government took unpopular stands on gay rights in Africa, staunchly defended Israel and flagged human rights issues in countries like Sri Lanka.

“There were a number of countries who … in the end, on the day of the vote, those votes when elsewhere,” Kent said.



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