The Municipal District of Bonnyville Council recently received overwhelming support for a motion regarding regional cooperation. At the Alberta Association of Municipal District and Counties (AAMDC) Convention, 98 percent of the members voted in favour for our motion asking the provincial government to maintain the autonomy of municipalities within the Municipal Government Act (MGA) in regards to inter-municipal cooperation and amalgamation.
A second resolution put forth by the County of Barrhead requesting the provincial government amend Sections 102 and 103, subsections 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the MGA which would no longer enable a single municipality to initiate the process of amalgamation without prior negotiation with the municipal authority affected by the proposed amalgamation, also passed by a majority of 96 percent.
The M.D. had overwhelming support from other Alberta rural municipalities for our resolution promoting regional cooperation, while maintaining municipal autonomy. It was encouraging to have the backing of our rural counterparts. Council hopes the Alberta government is prepared to listen to a major political sector of the province.
Council was also encouraged to see that other rural municipalities, some who may be targeted by neighbouring urban municipalities, put pressure on the province for changes to the MGA to ensure a fair playing field in regards to the amalgamation process. At this point in time, an urban municipality can simply pass a vote to amalgamate with its rural neighbour, forcing a costly process to begin, when in reality, the urban municipality may have simply wanted funding for a project or two.
Across the province, rural municipalities are being pressured to fund projects within neighbouring urban centres, often without prior discussion on design and cost. This is causing a lot of upheaval in municipal relationships. It is also perpetuating a perception that rural municipalities are richer than urban governments and have money to spare.
That is simply not true.
While a lot of rural municipalities currently benefit from increased linear tax revenues, the majority also have increased expenses, such as road construction and maintenance, that can quickly eat away at any perceived windfall. Rural municipalities build and maintain 80 percent of all roads within the province.
The M.D. of Bonnyville currently benefits from increased tax revenue, but the cost of maintaining its roads has gone up in tandem. Taking care of road concerns is a never-ending issue. The 2015 budget discussions are all about “what can we cut”. So as you can see, Council is not exactly flush with cash and has to be practical and cost-efficient in its decisions. Council does not have a large amount of money to share with our urban neighbours. But Council is certainly willing to partner where and when we can – while being practical and not spending more than we have.
We’re practical politicians. Council’s priority is to deliver services to M.D. residents. As a member of our integrated communities, the M.D. collaborates and partners with community organizations and neighbouring municipalities to enhance services for all residents throughout the region.
In 2015, M.D. Council is looking at setting aside funds for partnership opportunities with our neighbouring urban municipalities. Council reserves the right to choose which projects are appropriate. Council likes to fund projects which service M.D. residents as well as urban dwellers. Whenever possible, M.D. Council should be part of the project planning right from the beginning, so costs can be kept in check.
During the AAMDC Convention, Council met with the Honourable Diana McQueen, Minister of Municipal Affairs, to discuss additional funding for the overlay of the La Corey North Resource Road. While the M.D. gets funding from Special ID #349 (Cold Lake Air Weapons Range) to do basic upkeep on the well-travelled road, the funds do not cover major improvements. The M.D. is looking to partner with the province to improve this well-used access to the Range.
The M.D. of Bonnyville is in the unique position of surrounding three urban municipalities. While the Village of Glendon is much smaller than the Town of Bonnyville or the City of Cold Lake, its needs are great. Council was pleased to be informed by Municipal Affairs that the City of Cold Lake is benefiting from increased revenues from industry taxation, meaning that the M.D. may be able to share more of the allocated funding with Glendon and the Town of Bonnyville.
The end result is that the M.D. does believe in partnerships. Council has demonstrated this in the past through our agreements with the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority, Beaver River Regional Waste Management Commission, Bonnyville Centennial Centre, Regional Community Development Agreement, Doctor Recruitment Program, Family and Community Support Services (FCSS), and library funding to both the City of Cold Lake and Town of Bonnyville.
Every municipality has the right to grow and the right to their autonomy – and that includes the M.D. of Bonnyville.
Reeve Ed Rondeau