Southern Alberta municipalities rally against cuts to economic development

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WATCH ABOVE: As municipalities across the province struggle to make difficult budget decisions, southern Alberta Economic Development Alliances are lobbying the province to restore much-needed funding. Emily Olsen reports – Nov 4, 2020

Several communities in southern Alberta are penning letters to the province, asking that cuts to crucial economic development funding be restored.

Regional Economic Development Alliances or REDAs typically receive $100,000 annually from the province.

Executive Director of Southgrow Regional Initiative Peter Casurella said that funding has been cut in half, leaving numerous municipalities in a tough spot.

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“Without the $100,000 per year operating grant, many of the REDAs simply wouldn’t be able to survive,” Casurella said Wednesday. “Particularly in light of all of the additional costs that are being handed down to rural municipalities at this time.”

He said it will also have impacts on larger centres like Lethbridge, Calgary and Edmonton.

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“They rely on all of the economic activity and growth and resource extraction and agri-food production which happens in the rural regions in order for their economic health to keep rolling,” Casurella explained.

A spokesperson from the ministry of jobs, economy and innovation said the province said that the organizations can also generate their own revenues. 

“Most provinces do not fund economic development organizations. However, the province is still providing a total of $450,000 a year to the nine Alberta Regional Economic Development Alliances,” said the statement from the ministry. “Six of them have already received their funding, and the other three are in the granting process now. These organizations also generate revenue through membership fees, ranging from $30,000 to $125,000 per year.” 

Casurella said the government’s lack of appreciation for the efficiency and benefits of REDAs is frustrating.

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“There is a mechanism in place that covers 250 rural communities across Alberta for delivering economic development programs,” Casurella said. “We know what we’re doing, we know our communities, we know the ins-and-outs. I would like to frankly put government relations behind me and get back to work.”

He adds that between renewable energy projects, agri-food expansion and broadband internet distribution, the $100,000 per year has put Alberta’s economy in a prime position.

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“We have $2 billion in projects that are being built right now and there’s another 90 projects in the pipeline that are being proposed,” Casurella said. “This is a huge opportunity.”

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Southern Alberta REDA officials have requested to meet with Minister Doug Schweitzer and are still waiting for a response.

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