Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett (third from right) speaks to media Friday morning about the town’s decision to not sign off on the school tax requisition unless the province comes to the table with some grant options. Town of Stettler Mayor Sean Nolls (far right) was also in attendance to show his support. Photo by Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

Ponoka pushes for a piece of the grant pie

The town argues that rural municipalities are losing out of provincial funding opportunities

Ponoka council is calling on the Alberta government to think creatively with regard to grant funding.

That was the clear message from Mayor Rick Bonnett during a press conference Friday morning at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.

Using the arena as the backdrop to his message and accompanied by some town councillors and Town of Stettler Mayor Sean Nolls, Bonnett said a three-phase plan was created to be shovel ready for grants.

“We have four municipalities that worked on this and all four municipalities look at this as economic development, more than just a recreation project,” stated Bonnett.

Read More: Ponoka mayor and council take on province for recreation funding

Read More: Ponoka council approves holding back tax money from province

In a desperate attempt to secure provincial funds, which have been promised only through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI), the town made two motions: First to ask the province to release $6 million in federal funds from an infrastructure project, and second to withhold the school tax requisition until the town gets the 30 per cent provincial obligation.

Read More: Community culture and recreation infrastructure (provincial website)

There has been mixed reaction from residents on this decision. One concern is that the town will get punished by the province.

“We send them a cheque for, in Ponoka’s case about $2.1 million a year, and they turn around and give us a cheque for $1.1 million (MSI),” said Bonnett to questions on the possible loss of funds.

The reaction from the province in recent days has been muted. What the town risks is coming up against legal response from the province as the requisition is directly tied to the School Act.

Bonnett admits this is a risky move, but feels it’s time to act.

In support of the town, Mayor Nolls suggests there are other revenue streams that haven’t been considered. “We’re not asking the government to throw in extra funding. We know that there is funding in other ministries as well.”

“As much as we like to collaborate — because obviously we have four municipalities on board — the ministries themselves can collaborate where there’s possibly other streams,” Nolls added.

Coun. Kevin Ferguson added his support, pointing out that while 53 per cent of the Alberta population lives in the cities, the other 47 per cent lives in communities like Ponoka.

“When driving in those cities…you tell me where the canola fields are. You tell me where the dairy barns are. You tell me where the oil rigs are,” said Ferguson.

“We deserve what everyone else gets in this province,” said Ferguson.

One resident questioned council on the decision.

Murray Mackay said that Ponoka has seen little growth over the years, about half a per cent, and he wanted to know where the money would come from to pay for the project. “We’re barely keeping up with the mortality rate in town,” stated Mackay.

Bonnett said Mackay’s facts were not accurate, pointing out that the town’s growth from 2011 to 2016 was more than that. According to Statistics Canada it is closer to 6.1 per cent.

Mackay challenged the mayor on several issues but would not allow the mayor to respond. Ferguson took issue with his comments.

“I often wonder, are you more concerned about proving your opinion or do you care about this town?” asked Ferguson.

Despite Mackay’s response that he does care, Ferguson suggested his comments were more to “ambush” the press conference.

Bonnett added that this is about economic development. “You said with the Centennial Centre (for Mental Health and Brain Injury), 50 per cent of them (employees) come from out of town. They come from out of town because those facilities are not in town.”

Mackay added his concern that council is leaving itself open for additional issues with the province. “Aren’t you scared?”

“You need to get some changes? Sometimes you need to make some bold moves,” offered Bonnett. “You don’t make omelet without cracking an egg.”



jeff.heyden-kaye@ponokanews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Man arrested after door closed on fraud attempt

Ponoka dealership integral to capturing alleged theif, con artist

Yellow Vest Canada members make trip to Ponoka

A small group of Yellow Vest Canada members gathered at the Ponoka… Continue reading

UPDATED: Two wooden play structures in Ponoka set to be removed

No immediate plans to replace playground equipment

UPDATED: Sink hole from rain causes sewer line issue

Affected residents can now safely flush toilets

Bashaw seed cleaning plant holds official opening

New facility operating well since January

Lightning hits pair of vehicles near Ponoka

AMA urges drivers to stay safe when storms roll in

Maskwacis RCMP seek public assistance to locate missing female

Maskwacis RCMP is asking for public assistance to locate 26-year-old Crystal Rowan.… Continue reading

VIDEO: Bystander training gains traction as tool to prevent sexual harassment, violence

Julia Gartley was sexually assaulted after an event, and no one stepped in to help

Sexual assaults, extortion on the rise even as crime rates stay low: Stats Canada

Rates of police-reported sexual assault rose for the fourth year in a row

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Buccaneers pillage Irish 36-0

Central Alberta bounces back after off week against Wolfpack

Most Read