Sexsmith Mayor Kate Potter says she’s optimistic about the future but admits a gap between the provincial government and Peace Country municipalities remains.
Potter says the recently wrapped up Alberta Urban Municipalities Association 2020 Conference, in which several municipal leaders were able to ask questions directly of the problems, showed that a lot of work remains.
“There is a loss of income, while there continue to be greater expectations in download on the municipalities in responsibilities,” she says.
Potter says things like an on-going linear assessment review, education tax requisitions, and even things like MSI funding, which is about to be phased out for a new fiscal framework, creates the impression that supports from the province dropping for all municipalities by a significant amount. She adds even things well beyond their control, like changes to the local elections act, creates tension.
“We are expected to run referendums if they come from province…they changed the law this year to include that in municipal elections, but there is no guarantee or expectation of funding at this point from the province.”
“While there are some benefits to that, we hope it increases voter turn out, there are some things that are happening which cause municipalities to be concerned as to where the support is coming from,” she says.
Potter says one bright spot from her perspective is having a local MLA in the decision-making seat. She says the introduction of Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard as the Minister of Municipal Affairs was a solid choice and hopes it means a return to in-depth conversation and decision making which will not only help around the Grande Prairie region but across Alberta.
“I’m optimistic about what Tracy brings to be with the table…[she] has been the minister for about a month, and she has met with maybe 150 municipalities in that month, she has just been on the road…listening to municipalities, and it’s sort of an unprecedented move.”
MLA Allard took over the post from former Minister Kaycee Madu, who moved into the office of Minister of Justice.