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Market garden insurance among central Alberta municipality issues at annual conference

Rural Municipalities of Alberta conference runs this week in Edmonton
Lacombe County is looking for volunteer firefighters who are 18 or older, physically fit and have a Class 5 driver’s licence. Black Press file photo

Market garden crop insurance, municipal compensation for volunteer firefighters and sharing camping pass revenue are some of the issues rural central Alberta municipalities are bringing to the table at their annual conference.

The fall conference for Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), which represents 69 Alberta counties and municipal districts, began in Edmonton on Monday and runs until Thursday.

One of the centrepieces of the twice-yearly gatherings is the discussion and debate of pressing issues for municipalities through the presentation of proposed resolutions. Once passed, the RMA uses the resolutions to support lobbying efforts at the provincial level.

This fall, Red Deer County has sponsored a resolution aimed at helping Alberta’s market gardeners bounce back from crop losses due to hail, drought or other natural disasters. The county’s resolution calls on the provincial government to help provide market gardeners with cost-effective crop insurance.

While crop insurance exists, it is not subsidized by the provincial and federal governments like the insurance available to larger producers through the Alberta Financial Services Corporation. That makes coverage too expensive for most operators of small farms.

The issue was highlighted in central Alberta last summer when hailstorms hit market gardens near Red Deer and Innisfail hard.

Another issue on central Alberta municipal radar screens is the rising number of times volunteer firefighters find themselves first on the scene and required to act as medical first responders until EMS can arrive.

A resolution sponsored by Ponoka County points the finger at Alberta Health Services, which “through its ambulance and paramedic processes and policies, significantly reduced the services provided to rural Alberta …”

Many volunteer firefighters are “experiencing an increase level of stress or burnout and reduced capacity to respond because of these additional duties,” says the county.

The county says its firefighters were first on scene nearly two dozen times in 2022, and in 15 of those cases an ambulance did not arrive for at least 20 minutes.

Its resolution calls on the Alberta government to compensate municipalities when their firefighters who are qualified as medical first responders must respond due to the absence or delay of provincial emergency medical technicians and paramedics.

Clearwater County has sponsored a couple of resolutions. One is aimed at improving safety for children using school buses by requiring any vehicles passing a school bus with amber lights flashing reduce their speeds to at least 60 km/h. While vehicles are required by law to slow down when passing emergency vehicles and snowplows, there is no equivalent law in place for school buses.

Clearwater also wants to see municipalities get a share of the $20 three-day 0r $30 annual camping pass revenues collected by the province to help offset the cost to municipalities for providing fire services, peace officers, garbage collection and providing washrooms and other facilities.

It is also asked that a portion of camping pass revenues go to municipalities to help co-ordinate local stewardship and community groups impacted by public lands use.

Mountain View County calls on the government to “work collaboratively on policy that will find a balance between the development of renewable energy and protection of valuable agriculture lands. Alberta’s Renewable Energy Act says 30 per cent of power must come from renewable sources by 2030, which could result in the loss of up to 120,000 acres of farmland, says the county.

A County of Stettler resolution calls on the RMA to lobby the province to allocate more resources toward the Alberta Sheriffs Branch to ensure commercial vehicle enforcement continues in rural and remote communities.

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