Alberta’s urban municipalities will be keeping a close eye on the Progressive Conservative’s leadership race.
Helen Rice, president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, said they need a bold leader that will move forward the best interests of municipalities.
She said the province has been stalling on making decisions, such as applying for the Building Canada Fund and implementing a provide-wide LED streetlight switch-over. She said as of last week the province had not signed off on the fund, which means the municipalities have lost an entire construction season.
She said once they sign off the money will flow but they have missed a whole year.
“These kind of delay tactics I am hopeful under the new leadership will disappear,” said Rice who was in Red Deer on Tuesday. “I am talking to all three candidates and they are not prepared to have this kind of attitude continue.”
She talked about the much needed changes to the Municipal Government Act, improvements to grant funding applications, making it easier for communities to amalgamate and sustainable and predictable funding for municipalities.
“We are not asking for more money on its own,” said Rice, who is also a long-time Grande Prairie city councillor. “We will take on the responsibility that goes with that.”
She said MGA changes are high on every municipality’s list.
Rice said the AUMA and its municipalities have an excellent relationship with the province but she feels it could be even stronger if they were to adopt a good portion of their MGA submission.
“We need predictable sustainable funding,” she said. “We need to be recognized as an order of government, not an a child of the province.”
Earlier this year the province embarked on proposed changes to the act. The legislation was last revamped in 1994.
Rice said the “one size fits all” act clearly does not meet the needs of all municipalities. There must be flexibility to allow municipalities to respond to local issues. She said the province is growing at the rate of the size of Red Deer every year, which is adding to the infrastructure deficit that municipalities cannot afford to keep up with.
“There needs to be recognition that municipalities are responsible for creating Alberta’s power house reputation,” said Rice.
“We contribute to the GDP. That would be reflected in a strong and healthy infrastructure. To ensure that ongoing economic health in Alberta, the municipalities need to have the resources to manage their infrastructure.”
She also noted police funding needs to be addressed because communities under 5,000 do not pay anything for policing whereas cities like Red Deer are responsible for 91 per cent of its own policing costs.