Red Deer is not receiving the same level of provincial support as its municipal cousins in the north and south, says Mayor Morris Flewwelling.
“When I see the chunks of money that have gone to Lethbridge for a number of things, and the huge chunks of money that go to Fort McMurray, I’m thinking, ‘We’re here, we’re here in the middle!’” Flewwelling said after speaking at a Red Deer Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.
Flewwelling thinks this inequitable treatment is the result of Red Deer being lumped in with the rest of the province, but he plans to become “very aggressive” in raising the city’s profile with Premier Alison Redford.
“I will ask my staff to work with her staff. I only need a few minutes, but I need a few minutes of her time directly to get the message from Central Alberta.”
He’s optimistic that message will be heard, particularly following the success of the Wildrose Party in the rural ridings around Red Deer.
“We are the third-largest city, we have a huge trading area, we are now not all Tory blue — we’re Tory blue in the middle and we’re green around the outside — and she needs to take that into consideration.”
Flewwelling identified some of Red Deer’s needs during his “State of the City Address” to the Chamber. These include a treatment centre for victims of substance abuse and a new courthouse.
The latter, he explained, is necessary to address a worsening space shortage that could eventually jeopardize the administration of justice. There’s a window of opportunity to build a courthouse downtown, he added, but it won’t last.
Flewwelling also pointed to the importance of moving forward with a high-speed rail system between Calgary and Edmonton, so that provisions for a stop in downtown Red Deer can be made now.
He’d like the province to help develop more value-added industry in the region, and wants the push for degree programs at Red Deer College to continue.
Flewwelling also cited the need for an improved funding structure for municipalities, pointing out that they currently receive just eight per cent of the total tax dollars, with 50 per cent going to the federal government and 42 per cent to the province.
“We wish to see a rebalancing of that. We don’t want to be beholding and begging for grants, we want to have an assured share of that.”
Flewwelling said he’s pleased with the job that Red Deer MLAs Cal Dallas and Mary Anne Jablonski have been doing on behalf of the city. But he’s disappointed that only Dallas was appointed to Redford’s cabinet — as minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations.
“I’m not happy,” said Flewwelling, expressing optimism, however, that Jablonski will be successful in her bid to become Speaker of the House.
Flewwelling described to his Chamber audience council’s three-year strategic plan and its focus on economic development, transportation and movement, safety, image, design and dialogue. Sustainability is a priority, he added, including environmentally, financially, socially, culturally and with respect to governance.
The mayor expressed satisfaction with the development of Red Deer’s downtown, both through public projects like Veterans’ Park, Gaetz Avenue redevelopment and the new Donald School of Business; and private developments like Executive Place, the Elements @ Rivers Edge and River Valley Apartments.
Flewwelling remarked on the venue of his presentation: the new Gasoline Alley Holiday Inn, which is in Red Deer County.
“A few years ago, we would not have done that,” he said, referring to the animosity that existed between the two municipalities several years ago.
“I’m proud to say we have a wonderful working relationship with our colleagues in the county.”