Municipal politicians from across Alberta heard assurances that the same kind of infrastructure deal that Calgary and Edmonton signed with Rachel Notley’s NDP government late last year is there to be had for the rest of them.
Calgary and Edmonton agreed in November to share $500 million in infrastructure funding starting in 2022 to replace the old Municipal Sustainability Initiative that’s due to run out.
Delegates to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association leaders forum at the Edmonton Convention Centre Thursday heard promises that co-operation is a priority for the three parties that were invited: the NDP, the UCP and the Alberta Party.
St. Albert Mayor Cathy Heron, who is a AUMA vice-president representing cities under a population of 500,000, sorted through the speeches and is optimistic a deal will eventually get done.
“I heard from the Alberta Party a firm commitment for infrastructure funding with the first nine months, which was really nice to hear.”
“I heard from the UCP a conversation and listening. I don’t know if that’s much of a commitment. And from the NDP, I just feel like the timeline has been really short and the writ had to drop, but I did hear the commitment that the conversation would continue on the same path it has and it would get done.”
Heron thought the two sides — the province and the AUMA — were, at most, two weeks away from finishing a deal.
“We’re aligned on almost everything.
“We got the stable and predictable side of it done but what we didn’t get was the… number in the equation and that was our only sticking point. Edmonton and Calgary got a firm number and they’re happy with it, so that’s all that we’re asking for. So we’re talking close but not right across the finish line.”
Edmonton is getting $211 million in 2022. Heron said that’s about a 21 per cent reduction from recent grant payments. The rest of the municipalities beside the big cities want the same.
“We would like about the same (21 per cent) cut. We get that we’re not going to get as much money as we had in the past; we just want something fair and equitable to Edmonton and Calgary’s agreement and that wasn’t on the table.”
Edmonton had previously projected it would receive $270 million per year. The new deal reduced it by $61 million per year on average, which is in the 21 per cent range, according to an email from the city’s finance department.
“We worked really hard to reach an agreement with all of the municipalities,” said retiring Alberta MLA and minister Brian Mason.
“We just ran out of time. But we’re absolutely committed.”
Mason represented the NDP at the AUMA leaders forum.
“I made that commitment today, that we’ll pick up where we left off and continue to negotiate in good faith to get the kind of agreement that allows all municipalities to have the stable and reliable funding that they need to provide services to their people.”
The three parties all sent representatives who had been with the AUMA earlier in their political careers. Calgary’s Ric McIver fronted the UCP.
“I know if we get into government we’ll have to see how empty the cupboards are. We’re going to have to look at what the commitments are and we’re going to have to make it all makes sense.
“But the number one thing that we believe is the solution is growing the economy.”
Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel said he brought a message of collaboration with the province’s municipalities.
“We’re not here to dictate; we here to understand and try to come up with solutions to your problems and cooperation. I think that’s the most important thing.
“When I was mayor I didn’t really like when the province came down and said, ‘You shall do’ and then it didn’t solve the problem we had. So we really believe as a party that it’s working together with municipalities and finding solutions to their problems, which will really solve provincial problems.”