There have been some catcalls and name-calling at previous conventions, but this latest one is the worst Ponoka County Reeve Paul McLauchlin has ever witnessed.
“I’ve been to 18 of these and never have I seen booing or the huge level of hostility toward the government on display,” he said in an interview.
McLauchlin and other members of Ponoka County council and staff were at the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) annual fall convention in Edmonton from Nov. 15 to 17, which featured the usual meetings as well as the forum with Premier Rachel Notley and various ministers.
“It was pretty tense and it’s mostly built from the carbon tax and the layering on with the economic distress municipalities are facing, and it just all came to a head,” McLauchlin stated.
“Most don’t see a way out of the situation, then toss in the carbon tax and that just puts it over the top.”
He added that most municipalities were looking for some sort of rationale for bringing in the tax and question it as literally redistributing money.
“(The government) simply didn’t provide enough details on where the money will flow or be used for, what kind of decrease in emissions would be realized and what affect this will all have on communities that are going to be hollowed out as they lose their coal facilities,” McLauchlin said.
For the issues most pressing for the county, McLauchlin believes the new Municipal Government Act (MGA) was the most important item discussed at the convention.
“With the direction it seems to be going and if it keeps heading that way, then I can see our council supporting it,” he said.
The other items that are of some concern were the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding and how the stumbling oil and gas sector is making life difficult for AAMDC members.
“(Municipalities) are losing ground as the sustainability of MSI is questionable and revenue overall continues to decrease, especially with our linear assessment,” he said.
With Ponoka County focusing on being prudent on spending, much like other places, McLauchlin lamented there is no one coming to help considering this is probably the best time to be building things up.
“It’s likely not until the second or third quarter of 2017 before there is any economic movement or growth and with a two-year regulatory process for green energy, municipalities feel like they keep getting kicked while they are down while not knowing what lays ahead,” he added.
“It’s going to be a tough year and we are all going to have to work together. I’m an optimist, but even I’m nervous for what’s ahead.”