A pair of issues garnered most of the attention and discussion as the association that represents rural municipalities in Alberta paid a visit to Ponoka County last week.
Representatives from the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) stopped in for a chat with council during their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 10 and quickly found out many of the topics they brought to the table were already among the top issues the AAMDC has heard from other municipal members recently.
AAMDC president Al Kemmere, who is a councillor for Mountain View County along with director Earl Graham, who is deputy reeve for Clearwater County, AAMDC executive director Gerald Rhodes attempted to provide some answers to council about what’s happening around the province as well as what interests Ponoka County has.
The top two issues presented was the current promise that the provincial government will rework the Municipal Government Act (MGA) and what that will mean for counties plus the recent presentation to Ponoka County from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).
“We are expecting a shakedown from the province and some significant changes in the MGA,” stated Paul McLauchlin, Ponoka County Reeve.
“As well, the implication from CAPP about a two-to-one tax ratio was one that was not well received here.”
Kemmere told council he has heard a fairly consistent story from other members that CAPP has tried to guilt and shame municipalities using that ratio figure as a benchmark target.
“Our infrastructure takes a beating and the ongoing traffic just adds to it. The message to them though has been the same – sorry, but you’re having a big impact on our roads,” he said.
“Our biggest challenge is that there are different areas in the province that some municipalities are getting missed on seeing that type of resource revenue. It’s the same kind of conversation we had between normal livestock and intensive livestock operations. Something needs to be done similar to what some have as a gravel levy in order to make it more even throughout the province.”
As for the MGA discussion, McLauchlin said the speculation is out there that small urban municipalities are going to be told to partner or be forced to collaborate or amalgamate with rural municipalities to go along with some potential changes to the tax collection structure for counties.
“Duplication isn’t always needed and yes, we can collaborate on planning, but just like the AUMA (Alberta Urban Municipalities Association) we are just as frustrated that the limelight of the MGA discussion is taking place involving just two cities,” stated Kemmere.
“The government needs to be seen as more accessible and reaching out more.”
One other topic the AAMDC had yet to hear much about what the amount of tax owed to municipalities by resource companies falling into receivership and Ponoka County was wondering if there was some way to partner up with other rural counties that are in the same boat to save some legal costs.
“We have noted there are 11 other counties in the same boat as us and there is a concern that this is just the beginning,” said Ponoka County chief administrative officer Charlie Cutforth.
“Most of us are using the same legal counsel so somehow there has to be a way to collectively do that and not miss out on an opportunity to collect those taxes.”
All the AAMDC could suggest for that was to send the provincial government a list of those property taxes and ask that they look at forgiving the education portion so that maybe they would get the hint that something needs to be done. However, they did state they would look into it further.