Few provincial budget hints shared at AUMA Convention

Municipal leaders are anxiously awaiting what will and won’t be included in the upcoming provincial budget.

Following keynote speeches from Premier Jason Kenney and NDP leader Rachel Notley at last week’s AUMA Convention in Edmonton, Red Deer Mayor Veer says communities across the province remain hopeful for stable, predictable funding from the province moving forward.

“There was some comments from the Premier that although everyone will likely be participating in getting the financial house back in order, they did seem to clearly hear our message for stable, predictable funding for municipalities,” she said.

“From that, we expect that there will be some capital funding for municipalities but it will in all likelihood, be less than what we’ve had in previous years. The City has been preparing in our last three budgets, in many respects, for austerity budgets already.”

Councillor Dianne Wyntjes, who serves on the AUMA Board of Directors and its Safe and Healthy Communities Committee, says she was hoping for more information from the Premier regarding what to expect from the budget on Oct. 24.

“A knife is coming to what I call the mass sector,” says Wyntjes. “Municipalities, academic, post-secondary, school board and the healthcare sector and what that means for us as Albertans and how we will manage it provincially and in our own communities. Every government has their style of budget and it will be what it will be and we will react accordingly.”

Wyntjes says she remains optimistic about Alberta’s future despite current economic conditions, adding that her conversation with Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides at the convention was a positive one.

“Continuing the path of university status for (Red Deer College) is important,” explains Wyntjes.

“I know other councilors expressed the significance of having a new hospital built, which is a significant issue. We have our mayor and city manager and council members who have continued to express the importance of a 24-7 shelter in our city and those are our priorities, the courthouse building and that is also about economic development in our community, so those are jobs and services as well.”

Councillor Lawrence Lee says he too remains optimistic following the convention.

“I believe that this cabinet is certainly open to dialogue, more so than I think they have been in the past,” says Lee.

“The thing that really struck me from AUMA, was that now government, as an order of government, is looking really towards municipalities as that order of government, not so much that we were just created as an entity of the provincial government, but more so as a consultative partner in terms of knowing and operating ‘closer to the people’ issues on a daily basis.”

Lee says the convention was a great chance to meet with government ministers directly and learn best practices from other jurisdictions regarding shared issues such as crime.

“You get those perspectives on how communities are starting to deal with it,” explains Lee. “That’s going to basically look at how we move forward and how we have any chance of turning the tide, is by giving that feedback to those ministries that are most involved with it.”