City councillor says urban Alberta taxpayers are subsidizing rural residents

Urban taxpayers subsidizing rural: Grande Prairie city councillor
WATCH: A councillor in Grande Prairie says urban taxpayers are subsidizing rural residents and the province needs to level the playing field. Tom Vernon has this Alberta Matters story.

A city councillor in Grande Prairie says the Alberta government needs to level the playing field for urban municipalities with rural residential developments right outside city boundaries.

Dylan Bressey took to Twitter after seeing a Facebook post advertising access to city amenities outside of the city limits.

“In other words, live just outside the city to get cheap taxes, because someone else will pay to maintain your lifestyle,” he tweeted on July 8.

“It frustrates me as a city councillor. It infuriates me as a city taxpayer.”

Bressey argues urban residential taxes are much higher because cities have to pay for services rural communities do not.

“If you’re a city or town of over 5,000, you’re responsible to pay for your own police. If you’re any other municipality, then the province is responsible for your policing costs,” Bressey said in an interview with Global News.

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LISTEN: Leduc Mayor Tanni Doblanko joins 630 CHED Afternoon News to discuss the urban-rural divide in Alberta

The City of Grande Prairie has about $18 million budgeted for police.

“I think if there’s going to be solutions to be found, that really needs to come from the province, which is elected to represent all residents.”

The reeve of the county of Grande Prairie believes Councillor Bressey’s complaints are a bit off base.

“We’re paying for services inside the city of Grande Prairie that the county of Grande Prairie residents use,” said Leanne Beaupre.

That payment, which was $1.2 million this year, comes through Aquatera, the region’s co-owned utilities company.

READ MORE: Alberta introduces changes to Municipal Government Act

This type of disagreement isn’t limited to the Peace Country. Communities right across Alberta are competing for development dollars. Edmonton and Calgary are surrounded by smaller communities with industrial and residential developments.

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LISTEN: University of Alberta political science professor Reza Hasmath joins 630 CHED Afternoon News to discuss political influence in urban and rural communities

“One of the reasons for them to go towards country residential and acreages and so on and so forth is to diversify their tax base,” said Dr. Sandeep Agrawal, the director of the School of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Alberta.

LISTEN: Dr. Sandeep Agrawal of the University of Alberta joins Ryan Jespersen to discuss what goes into planning urban and rural communities

Agrawal says there have always been tensions between municipalities, but a decision by the Ralph Klein government in the mid-1990s didn’t help, when the government scrapped regional planning commissions.

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“The idea of region was lost, and you see the competition for land, competition for industries, competition for employment has given rise to more issues.”

Updates to the Municipal Government Act have brought back requirements for regional planning, as an example, both Calgary and Edmonton have region boards.

LISTEN: Calgary Metropolitan Region board chair Chris Sheard joins Rob Breakenridge to discuss how Calgary is working with its neighbours to promote regional growth

“We encourage municipalities to work together towards regional cooperation and suggest municipalities with common boundaries create plans for delivering and funding services in a manner that is mutually beneficial to their communities and residents,” Tim Gerwing, the press secretary for Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu, said in a statement.