Several Red Deer city council candidates generally agree that Red Deer’s racist reputation needs to be confronted and remediated. (Advocate file photo)

Red Deer set to help advocate for the interests of mid-sized cities

Funding disparities are among city council’s concerns

Red Deer is set to work with 24 other mid-sized cities in Alberta to advance their collective and individual interests.

On Monday, Red Deer city council unanimously endorsed an application by the Mid-Sized Cities Mayors’ Caucus to get a provincial partnership grant to launch an initiative to “unlock the full potential of Alberta’s mid-sized cities.”

City council heard that, while the umbrella group AB Municipalities lobbies for common goals across the province, it does not specifically address such things as provincial funding disparities between larger and smaller centres.

Yet concerns have arisen locally when all of the provincial money allocated for affordable housing, for example, goes to Edmonton and Calgary, with no money for Red Deer or any other smaller centre, said Coun. Vesna Higham.

Council was told Alberta’s mid-sized cities need a unified voice to strengthen their position in the province and advocate for their interests. Coun. Bruce Buruma also noted that having a “dashboard” that shows how Red Deer compares to other communities for things such as provincial grants, would be valuable.

Red Deer city council heard the Alberta Mid-Sized Cities Mayors’ Caucus is made up of 24 member communities that collectively are home to more than a million people.

Counting the catchment areas around these cities, the population would be much higher, said Mayor Ken Johnston, who noted Red Deer serves as a health care centre for about half a million people alone.

If mid-sized cities are struggling with the lack of affordable housing and other social service gaps, it can affect the whole region, Johnston added.

City council’s endorsement of the caucus’s initiative does not require putting up any money. Instead, about 30 staff hours would be required to collect and provide data and participate in project workshops, interviews and sessions if the partnership funding application is successful.

Coun. Victor Doerksen saw the value of supporting the mid-sized cities caucus but questioned why AB Municipalities was not catering to concerns shared by Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Grande Prairie etc.

“If (AB Municipalities) is not delivering our messages, then why are we part of it? We don’t need any more bureaucracy.”

Red Deer City Council

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