The Alberta government is putting the finishing touches on a system that will outline firm commitments for infrastructure and construction funding for municipalities.
Cabinet members were scheduled to review the proposal to replace the current Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) Monday afternoon.
“There’s some ongoing concerns that all sides have,” Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson said. “We just want to make sure it’s something we can legislate, that’s going to work well for the province and for the municipalities.
“That’s my concern… making sure that everybody’s good where we’re at. So it’s going to take a little more work but I think we’ll get there.”
The MSI commitment expires in 2022, which coincides with the last year of many Alberta cities’ four-year budgets.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson has previously voiced concerns — on several occasions — that there was no set funding model in place from the province for cities to plan ahead for capital and construction projects and on which to base their budgeting.
Without a firm agreement from the province, Iveson has said Edmonton’s plans would have a hole in them worth hundreds of millions of dollars. He was encouraged to hear progress is being made.
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“They’re meeting this afternoon so that’s a very, very good sign,” Iveson said Monday morning. “Discussions have been productive. That’s some of what we were talking about on Friday when we were briefing council on where things are at. I think we’re very, very close.
“It’s in the province’s hands to take it over the finish line.”
Edmonton councillors held an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss funding priorities for its four-year budget ahead of public discussions this week.
While council would prefer to hear final confirmation before budget deliberations end, Anderson would not provide an exact timeline.
“It’s kind of to be determined, to be honest,” the minister said. “I can’t really put a time on it because, like I say, some of these concerns and some of these conversations are pretty sensitive so we just want to make sure that we get it done right. And we don’t want to have any issues going forward.
“We might have to adapt, of course, that’s government, but we want to get it as right as we can,” Anderson said.
“We’ve been working on it for months and months. I think it’s really positive. It looks really optimistic, in my opinion.”
Those words are music to Iveson’s ears.
“The minister’s comments were very encouraging — that he’s heard that message,” the mayor said. “That’s been our conversation with the government. I had a good conversation with the premier yesterday at the Grey Cup.
“I think we’re real close, and that’s going to make a huge difference for every municipality trying to make multi-million dollar decisions on infrastructure in their four-year budget cycle.”
The province has been negotiating with Calgary and Edmonton, as well as the two associations that represent all of the other municipalities.
The Notley government could announce the funding model as early as this week.
— With files from Scott Johnston