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Help me with homework! Strategic Priorities


Council is undertaking a strategic planning process. Through it we are trying to figure out what Grande Prairie needs to do to be a successful community. Our first task is to come up with 5 short (one or two word) phrases to express our top strategic priorities. I’d love to read 5 priorities you think we should adopt. Include a few results that could come out of these priorities and put them in order of importance. If you have time, way below I have my [current] five phrases. Give them a read and let me know what you think. Council's strategic priorities are going to carry huge influence because they will be at the heart of next year's Priority Based Budgeting process.

 How to share your ideas: Comment below, post on the GP Round Table Facebook group, or send me an email at



The Assignment

Council often feels like school: I write a lot, I read even more, and most of my time is spent showing up places to learn something new. This week the illusion was made complete when I was given homework. It even has the same deadline I toiled under for most of college: 4:30pm on Monday. Since I also have a Super Bowl to watch, want to help me out?

My task (a long with the rest of Council): figure out what we feel Grande Prairie needs to do to be a successful community. And we have been tasked with expressing that in a specific format. I'd love to see you take a shot at it!

What are 5 one or two word phrases you think should be the strategic priorities for our community? To make sure I understand them, I’d also love to hear a few results you would hope to see coming out of these priorities. For bonus points, put them in order of priority (high priority first).

The idea is to come up with very high level concepts the City can pursue or should keep in mind as it undertakes all of its programs. You don’t want to be too specific, although specific ideas might inform what you pick. Here are a couple of examples of what I mean:

  • “More snow plows” would be WAY too specific, no matter how much you may feel we need them. “Safe roads” is even likely too specific. But “safe communities” is high level enough, it certainly leads to the idea of safe roads, and dialing down on this idea may lead to more snow plows.
  • You may want to see a second swimming pool. But getting one in place shouldn’t be one of the five strategic priorities of Council- we have a lot more to do. But priorities such as “recreation/culture,” “youth opportunities,” or “healthy community” would all be priorities that lead to conversations about whether we need a second pool.

Way below I have my current five phrases. After you’ve made yours (no cheating! Do yours first) take a look at mine and let me know what you think. Mine are still very much a work in progress and will likely change before I submit them.



At the end of February, Council will be locked in a room with senior management to undertake a week of strategic planning. This exercise is part of our pre-work. The hope is that we will have five phrases picked out before we go. We may refine or tweak them throughout the strategic planning process. But eventually, we will have a few priorities which will guide all the activities of the City over the next four years.

The priorities our last Council set had influence. For example, every single time administration made a report to Council they had to comment on how it aligned with the strategic plan. This forced Council and administration to repeatedly filter their decisions through strategy.

However, the priorities our Council sets will be especially influential due to the Priority Based Budgeting system we will be using next year. After we have arrived at our five priorities, we will be generating a list of results that we want to see come out of them. These results will be given relative weights. Then every program the City undertakes will be given a score based on which results it contributes to. These scores will drive our next budget: programs that receive high scores will be likely to receive funding priority over lower scoring programs.


Some Examples and Ideas

I’d encourage you to come up with your own words. But if you are stuck, here are a few examples other municipalities have used: Safe Community, Culture & Recreation, Environment, Healthy Community, Clean Community, Attractive Community, Desirable Neighbourhoods, Quality Neighbourhoods, Inclusive Community, Welcoming Community, Economic Development, Growth & Development, Infrastructure & Transportation.

Here are some words from the past Council’s guiding principles that you might find useful: Advocacy, Diverse Economy, Engaged Citizens, Exceptional Service, Family Focused, Fiscally Responsible, Healthy Environment, Informed, Innovative, Partnerships, Winter City.

If you want even more ideas, you may be interested in seeing the past Council’s plan by clicking here. You may also be interested in reading the four strategic priorities I articulated while campaigning: I’ve tweaked my thinking and wording, but so far have not substantially changed my mind on anything. Click here to see them.


My Five Priorities [For Now]

Here are my current five priorities, although I am sure they will change as I think, read,  and discuss.

1.      Regional Partner- prioritize projects that are undertaken with other municipalities, market Grande Prairie and area to potential investors/residents/visitors, advocate for regional priorities to senior levels of government

2.      Future Thinking- seek innovative solutions to community needs, excel at infrastructure management, perpetuate sustainable budgets, work to grow tax base, take environmental responsibility

3.      Connected Community- invest in all ages and abilities, plan for all modes of transportation, strengthen Neighbourhood Associations and grassroots initiatives, strengthen volunteer and cultural groups/communities

4.      Safe Community- emphasis on crime prevention, safe roads, prepared for emergencies, professional and responsive law enforcement, care for the vulnerable

5.      Citizen Service- provide and communicate good value to taxpayers, inform and engage citizens in City decision making, provide positive interactions between staff and citizens

I placed Regional Partner and Future Thinking at the top because I think if done well, these priorities will position us to accomplish our other priorities over the long term. Regional Partner made the top of the list because creating provincially mandated Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks (more info here) is going to be the biggest and most important project our Council undertakes.

Connected Community came next because if this priority is realized, we will naturally have citizens who are safer and feel better served.

I struggle to figure out what needs to be prioritized higher: Safe Community or Citizen Service. Safety is more important to me, but I sense that we have more work to do on the service side than on the safety side. Since they are a toss-up, I guess I should put safety first when in doubt.


I’ve got a deadline looming. Help me out! Let me know your thoughts.