Red Deer wants in on low-income transit subsidy from the province

Council concerned big city charters will put Red Deer at a disadvantage

Red Deer is calling a low-income transit subsidy from the province that is going to only Edmonton and Calgary unfair.

Mayor Tara Veer said the recent subsidy arose out of big city charter discussions that are intended to give the two cities more power and change how they are funded.

“Part of the concern Red Deer and other mid-sized cities have had is not only that the charters would give rights and powers over and above other municipalities, but it would ultimately translate into additional funding for Edmonton and Calgary,” Veer said on Thursday.

She said city council immediately submitted a formal request to the province for the same transit subsidy about six weeks ago when it was announced. Council has yet to receive a response. Central Alberta Poverty Reduction Alliance also sent the province a letter supporting Red Deer’s position.

“The government did indicate that it’s a three-year pilot for Edmonton and Calgary. Following that, there may very well be additional funding for the mid-sized cities,” Veer said.

“Our hope is, of course, that the recession is over by that three-year window. So if they’re looking to subsidize low-income transit users, now is certain the time to do that.”

Red Deer reiterated its concerns about big city charters on Wednesday when members of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association approved the AUMA’s official response to the province concerning amendments to the Municipal Government Act.

Veer said on the whole, Red Deer supported the AUMA policy paper, but also submitted its own paper.

“One of our predominate noted concerns was the charter process. Obviously because we’re the largest of the mid-sized cities and because of our central positioning on the corridor, our fear is that we will face the greatest risk if indeed the charters prove to be legislatively and financially isolating.”

Red Deer has been troubled by big city charters since they were first introduced by the province in 2014.

Another issue identified by the city is that municipalities be allowed to allocate larger municipal reserves for the construction of high schools, compared to other schools, to address the bigger building and parking required. The cost of purchasing the additional land required is being borne by property taxpayers.