Provincial election a hot topic among local council leaders
Justin Seward/Scott Schmidt
The upcoming provincial election has local mayors talking about issues that need to be tackled as Albertans are set to hit the polls in a week’s time.
Bow Island Mayor Gordon Reynolds says while it is matter of waiting until April 16 to see how the election shakes out that MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative)Funding needs to stay as is for municipalities.
The current agreement expires in 2020-2021.
“We’re looking for an agreement with the province for all municipalities, except Calgary or Edmonton because they already had a deal back in November,” said Reynolds.
“There’s a framework there now in the big cities agreement. We want to build on that and utilize that. One of my concerns is the change in government. Is the new the government going to suddenly try and get rid all of the debt in a big hurry and are they going to do that by cutting off funding to the municipalities the way they did 30 years ago?”
“We’re after an agreement that is predictable, legislated and locked in. We want to believe that the MSI commitment is locked in. If that gets touched, changed or reduced that supposedly will help get rid of provincial debt. It’s just going to pile more debt, pressure and taxation on the municipalities.”
Another ongoing issue will be to further progress discussions on the twinning of Highway 3 where major projects have already commenced in sections.
Reynolds says there have been big projects happening between Lethbridge and Taber as well as in the eastward direction.
“There’s going to be a couple of projects that are going to impact Highway 3 East,” Reynolds said.
“The transportation corridor isn’t sufficient to handle the extra traffic. We’re advocating for the twinning of the highways to keep it safer.”
A better deal needs to be in place, while more support needs to be garnered for highways, he added.
Redcliff Mayor Dwight Kilpatrick says he does not believe the promises that have been made are truthful.
“We already have an income problem,” he said.
“If you’re going to cut carbon tax, corporate tax, that’s income, and balance the budget, that means you’re going to cut a horrific amount of expense. If somebody is already running a $10 billion or $8.8 billion a year deficit and you’re going to balance that budget by cutting out millions of dollars. Then I can’t imagine where they’re going to find $20 billion. I hope it woudn’t be for municipalities because it’s not like we’re sitting there rolling in it.”
He believes the current system has some work to do.
“The whole thing is broken,” said Kilpatrick.
“People are going to be a voting on a person. They don’t vote for a person in the riding. They vote for a leader. That inheritantly wrong in that you should be voting for the best person in your riding. The one that would work the hardest. But we don’t do that. We vote for the parties.”
He says the town has not talked about the changing of the guard on a provincial scale but it will be interesting nonetheless.
“We do get money from the province,” he said.
“There are a couple groups out there that haven’t talked about us. You know the one that’s in there right now. Anybody else coming in there is going to make a change and everybody fears change.”
Forty Mile County Reeve Steve Wikkerink says leading up to the election that he’s hearing support for both major parties from local residents, but, more than anything, there seems to be equal disdain for campaign bickering.
“Above all else, most people are just saying, ‘I wish parties would just tell me what they’re going to do the next four years and leave the other party alone,’” Wikkerink says. “People are sick and tired of that.”
Wikkerink is also eager to see what the winning party would do within the Environment Ministry. He says regulations and processes are fine if necessary but nothing gets done if it doesn’t have the staffing to handle the needs of municipalities around Alberta.
“Somehow we need the whole Environment department to be shaken up a little bit and get a little more up to date,” Wikkerink says. “It seems like everything you have to do with them is a two-year wait.
“It seems like they’re pretty good at hiring public servants for all kinds of different areas, but Environment is painful when it comes to municipality-type stuff. We need Environment to somehow get a revamp, or get some more staff in there or something — so much of our stuff is delayed.”
Another area he’d like to see handled better is money available in support for irrigation districts.
“The percentage of funding that irrigation districts are getting from the province is just being slashed constantly. Just from two years ago until now, our own district has (been) cut by pretty well 50 per cent again.”
Unfortunately, he says, it’s another area affected by Alberta Environment being spread too thin.
Albertans go to the polls on April 16.