Ask most people what matters most to them in their communities and they’ll mention core services such as roads, snow removal and recreation facilities.
Chances are, local elected officials have the same list.
The challenge lies in municipal governments getting the sustainable, predictable funding from the provincial government to take care of those local priorities. That’s why the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) has worked with elected officials to create Local Matters, a campaign to give municipalities the authority they need to get things done in their communities.
“We’ve recognized for years that there needs to be a new relationship between the provincial government and municipalities,” explains Darren Aldous, president of the AUMA. “We want municipal governments to be recognized as a legitimate order of government and given the authority to make decisions that are right for their communities and have the funding they need to address the most important issues.”
Aldous notes citizens often don’t understand the provincial property taxes they pay don’t stay in their own communities. “People think that municipalities get these local tax dollars to do local work, but in reality about half of those taxes go to the provincial government, which then decides who gets what.”
Local Matters will be one of the priority issues addressed throughout AUMA’s annual convention in Calgary, Sept. 28 to 30, which brings together about 1,000 councillors, senior municipal administrators and stakeholders from across Alberta.
Launched in early 2011, the Local Matters campaign seeks to recognize municipal governments as a legitimate order of government and give them the authority to make decisions that are right for their communities and make available the predictable funding municipalities need to address the most important issues.
“Municipal governments know what their communities need most. The goal of Local Matters is to make sure they have the authority and the resources to meet their core responsibilities – to do what matters most,” Aldous said.
Candidates vying to be the new leader of the provincial Progressive Conservative party – and the new premier of Alberta – have been quick to share their positions on issues such as education, health care and energy.
“We’ve been working tirelessly over the past few months to help these candidates understand what Local Matters is all about,” Aldous said.
AUMA met with the premier, MLAs and all the PC and opposition leaders and candidates this year to discuss the campaign and the need for a new relationship between the provincial government and municipalities.
“It’s important that the candidates understand what Local Matters is about and what it would make possible, because one of these people will become our new premier,” explains Aldous. “We want them to recognize that municipalities understand the needs of their citizens better than anyone else, and should have the authority and resources available to address the issues and concerns that are core priorities in their communities.”
The AUMA candidates’ forum will take place on Sept. 29. A question and answer period will be take place during the forum, and delegates are encouraged to ask the candidates where they stand on supporting the Local Matters campaign.