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More infrastructure support needed from higher levels of government: Red Deer city councillor

Fate couldn't have intervened more strongly — just as Red Deer city councillor Dianne Wyntjes was gathering with others to discuss the need for more government support for municipal infrastructure, an emergency alarm began screeching.
Red Deer city councillor Dianne Wyntjes was among the local representatives at last week's Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Calgary. (Advocate file photo).

Fate couldn't have intervened more strongly — just as Red Deer city councillor Dianne Wyntjes was gathering with others to discuss the need for more government support for municipal infrastructure, the emergency alarm on her phone began screeching

It was Thursday morning, June 6, and a notification system was shrilly informing everyone in Calgary — including the 3,100 councillors and mayors who were attending the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference —  of the city's major water-main break the previous evening.

Since the rupture along 16th Avenue was impeding the City of Calgary's ability to move water, "the hotel put out notices that there would be no clean towels," or showers, recalled Wyntjes.

She believes this yet unresolved infrastructure breach — which led to a boil-water advisory for Bowness, as well as fire pit and outdoor watering bans in Calgary —   shows why it's vital that municipalities be able to maintain their aging pipes for the good of all citizens.

"It's a common theme at the FCM that we need adequate government funding to do this work, that we can't rely on just property taxes," said Wyntjes.

Municipalities have been complaining for years that government infrastructure funding is inadequate, hasn't kept up with growth, and has been falling behind as more fiscal responsibility is downloaded on municipalities.

The FCM is pushing for all orders of government to coming together to develop a a Municipal Growth Framework. Wyntjes said cities and towns need predictable and equitable funding so their can address their own needs as well as national challenges, such as housing and homelessness, climate change and public safety. 

"It's important that we have everybody at the table as dollars are scarce."

She, as well as fellow city councillors Vesna Higham, Cindy Jefferies, Chad Krahn and Lawrence Lee, attended the June 6-9 conference at the Calgary Convention Centre to discuss these and other concerns.

Delegates had an opportunity for an open mic question-and-answer session with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as Green Party's Elizabeth May, and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who made a Zoom appearance.

Weather and emergency preparedness discussed, as well as growth and how to provide adequate housing, schools and health resources for incoming residents. Wyntjes said the shortage of affordable and supportive housing was a common theme —  as well as the need for provincial governments to also "come to the table" in this area.

The way Alberta's UCP government introduced Bill 18 (requiring all Alberta municipalities to obtain provincial permission before entering into financial deals with the federal government) and Bill 20, (major changes to the Municipal Elections Act) without any consultation with municipalities sparked concern from all FCM attendees, said Wyntjes. "It's almost contrary to the idea of collaboration..."

The FCM introduced resolutions calling on the federal government to give more support to food banks and groups that assist people dealing with social issues, such as domestic violence. Concerns were also shared about the need for more civility between the public and government officials.





Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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