Municipalities see opportunities, challenges with rookie MLAs

Central Alberta municipal officials are taking the change in government in stride.

Central Alberta municipal officials are taking the change in government in stride.

Six rookie MLAs — two NDP and four Wildrose — took seats in Central Alberta during the provincial election on Tuesday. Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman was re-elected in Drumheller-Stettler and is the only holdover in the seven regional ridings.

Red Deer city manager Craig Curtis said there are new opportunities and challenges with every change in government.

Curtis said he sees promising items in premier-elect Rachel Notley’s platform. It includes increased funding to Family and Community Support Services, transit, climate change, stable municipal funding and affordable housing.

“All those items are high priorities in their platform,” said Curtis. “And all those areas are high priorities in our advocacy. I think we build on some areas that we see can make progress with the new government.”

Red Deer voters elected NDP Kim Schreiner in North and NDP Barb Miller in South. As in most of Alberta, this is the first time the ridings will be represented by a party other than the Progressive Conservatives in decades.

Mayor Tara Veer said the city will work actively with the government to ensure Red Deer’s priorities become provincial priorities.

Veer said the first order of business will be to establish relationships between the city and the newly-elected officials.

“Our positions will be on record with the various portfolios but we need to ground our advocacy efforts in relationships,” she said.

The city will be keeping a close eye on the NDP’s first budget to determine the impacts on the municipality.

Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie said change is not always bad. He said it is a waiting game to see what the budget and the new cabinet will look like.

“There are some definite projects that we are working,” said Christie. “On the bright side, we have a whole new audience to speak to and present to. We will be very well briefed on our projects.”

One of the major projects in the municipality is a planned regional wastewater line. Christie said the line is essential to growth in Lacombe and Blackfalds.

“It was hugely supported by the past ministers,” he said. “Hopefully we can get the NDP to find us some money to build that sooner than later.”

Lacombe-Ponoka chose Wildrose candidate Ron Orr, a Baptist minister from Clive. Christie will meet with Orr this week. The city had an Opposition MLA in Rod Fox, before he crossed the floor to the PCs last year. He lost the PC nomination to Peter DeWit.

“For the last three years, we’ve had an Opposition MLA,” said Christie. “And we’re in that same boat again. That’s not new.”

Christie said the city will have to bring Orr up to speed on the issues, like most municipalities with a new MLA.

“Over the last 40 years in Alberta, that’s something (most) municipalities haven’t had to deal with,” he said. “I’m not necessarily upset about it. I am not scared of it. It’s just different.”

Sylvan Lake Mayor Sean McIntyre said he was surprised at the result but he looks forward to working with the new Wildrose MLA Don MacIntyre, who defeated PC Kerry Towle.

“It’s a big change for Alberta,” said McIntyre. “I know there’s a lot of opinions out there but we are just going to have to wait and see what this government has planned for Alberta.”

The case of an urgent care centre in Sylvan Lake will continue to be the town’s top priority and concern, said McIntyre.

“It was announced that Sylvan Lake would receive an urgent care centre but that was announcement made by the old … government,” he said. “That will be something we need to follow up with the new … government as soon as they take their seats in the legislature.”

Mountain View County Reeve Bruce Beattie said he looks forward to working with the new government in a positive manner and with Wildrose’s Nathan Cooper in Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills and Wildrose’s Jason Nixon in Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre.

Beattie said the county will continue to push on issues related to seasonal flooding around Sundre, provincial funding for the Rural Bridge Program, rural health care and Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding.

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