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Progress slow on Rural Municipal Association asks

Update on resolutions passed at November conference show work remains to be done

A Rural Municipalities Association update on some key resolutions from its fall conference show there is plenty of work to be done.

Provincial government action was sought on everything from bridge funding and wildland fire strategy to the provincial police advisory board and regulating e-scooters and other personal electric vehicles.

All eight of the resolutions passed last November and updated on the RMA’s website were considered “intent not met” and advocacy efforts would continue in most cases.

RMA president Paul McLauchlin, who is also the reeve of Ponoka County, said while more action from government would have been welcomed he is not surprised progress has been slow.

A resolution calling for the government to ensure that future reclamation and restoration costs were covered on renewable energy sites, such as solar and wind power facilities, was first introduced in 2018 and is still a work in progress.

Among RMA’s top priorities is to continue to lobby the province to provide more infrastructure funding for municipalities well beyond the $772 million the government has promised.

A resolution calling for more funding help to repair and replace aging bridges and culverts in rural municipalities was among those updated recently. Alberta Transportation and Economic Corridors pointed to more than $93 million over three years promised in the 2023 provincial budget.

In response, RMA calls for funding to be “linked to the current infrastructure deficit and the risks associated with failing infrastructure.”

The RMA is undertaking a study of rural municipal infrastructure deficits to shine a spotlight on the issue.

“I think right now we do have concerns with long-term financial viability,” said McLauchlin.

Another resolution calls on the province to move ahead with a long-awaited Provincial Police Advisory Board designed to give small and rural communities a seat at the table when policing priorities are set. It is of particular importance to small and rural municipalities now because they are now required to pay a portion of their policing costs.

An interim board was set up in 2020 but little appears to have happened since.

“The fact we haven’t moved on that file I find tremendously frustrating,” he said, adding the decision to regionalize victims services is also of great concern to municipalities.

The RMA also wants the province to work with the federal government to find ways to offset the estimated $300 billion earmarked for the U.S. agriculture under the Inflation Reduction Act.

“(I)t is crucial that the provincial and federal governments commit to creating a task force that will adequately evaluate the IRA’s impact on Canadian producers and recommend policy adjustments to enhance the competitiveness, sustainability, and resilience of Alberta’s agricultural sector,” says the RMA.

RMA has also called on the province to update flood regulations, create a strategy for wildland fire management outside of Forest Protection Areas and develop regulations for E-scooters and other personal electric vehicles. As well, the government is called on to allow more municipal involvement in decision making by quasi-judicial bodies such as the Alberta Energy Regulator, Natural Resources Conservation Board and Alberta Utilities Commission and to ensure that high-load corridors, routes where power lines have been raised or buried to allow trucks with large trucks to move freely are protected and expanded.

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