ABmunis in the News: Q2, 2023

As the unified voice of our members, Alberta Municipalities works hard to bring attention to our members’ priorities. Alberta Municipalities appeared in the news many times during the second quarter of 2023 (Q2, 2023), representing the interests of our member communities in which 85% of Albertans live and bringing public attention to the issues facing Alberta’s communities.

Municipalities on the hook for $60 million in RCMP backpay

The topic of municipal governments being on the hook for RCMP backpay made headlines in Alberta and across Canada in April 2023. Alberta Municipalities expressed dismay, saying it was never consulted by the Government of Canada during negotiations with the RCMP’s union for a pay raise. In its April 3 news release, the association called on the federal government to reconsider its approach and absorb these one-time costs, which amounted to $60 million.

President Cathy Heron told The Calgary Herald that picking up that tab would cost Alberta municipalities $60 million and the province another $80 million to cover the costs of smaller towns. Director Tyler Gandam (Cities up to 500,000) told Global News that the federal government’s expectation that municipalities would foot the bill for the RCMP’s pay increase and backpay was “really unfair.” Gandam delivered the same message in an April 6 interview with on Corus Radio host Shaye Ganam’s province-wide morning talk show.

Alberta’s 2023 provincial election & Premier Smith’s new cabinet

Alberta Municipalities conducted three online media events in May – each one focused on a specific issue. Board members and guest mayors spoke passionately about Alberta’s $30-billion infrastructure deficit, the need to address the root causes of crime, and the dire state of Alberta’s healthcare system. President Cathy Heron, Director Tyler Gandam and Director Trina Jones (Towns-East) took part in these events, along with guest mayors Michael Yargeau (Town of Penhold) and Ren Giesbrecht (Summer Village of West Cove). Their statements, responses to questions, and follow-up interviews gave voice to our members’ stories and amplified our members’ priority issues. An opinion piece from ABmunis’ Board of Directors outlining the association's public information campaign ran in the May 27 issues of the Lethbridge Herald and Red Deer Advocate – two of Alberta’s largest regional daily newspapers.

President Heron shared her initial thoughts on Premier Danielle Smith’s cabinet appointments on the Cross Border Interview podcast with host Chris Brown. She welcomed Ric MicIver's appointment to Minister of Municipal Affairs but expressed disappointment that ABmunis would no longer be working closely with Rebecca Schulz, who was appointed Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Protected Areas. Director Angela Duncan (Villages-West) told Postmedia that Premier Smith’s idea of creating a council of unelected former UCP candidates was concerning and emphasized that elected members of the legislative assembly, regardless of their party affiliation, should be the ones who are consulted on local issues. The Globe and Mail also reported on the criticism the idea of a council of failed candidates sparked in various circles (Note: this article is behind a paywall).

Alberta’s 30-billion infrastructure deficit & financial challenges

The topic of Alberta’s $30-billion municipal infrastructure, which was first discussed at ABmunis’ Spring Municipal Leaders’ Caucus in late March, drew significant media interest in the second quarter of 2023.

The City of Airdrie’s rapid growth and massive funding needs were highlighted in a July 7 CBC story. Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown is encouraging residents to come forward and ask the provincial government for a more equitable funding model so the city can meet its infrastructure, healthcare and education needs. President Heron said negotiations on the Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF) have not been particularly successful thus far between the urban and rural municipalities of Alberta because of a fundamental disagreement on how funds should be allocated. Alberta Municipalities favours a funding model that is based largely on population. "We're just trying to get [a] fair deal for every community, whether you're [a] town, village or city," said Heron.

Director Duncan shared the association’s perspective on the financial challenges faced by the Village of Andrew in a May 7 interview with CBC reporter Liam Harrap. The village, located 100 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, has asked for a municipal inspection to be conducted by the Government of Alberta. Duncan said more communities are exploring the option of conducting a municipal inspection. "In some cases, a new councillor has a poor impression of how the municipality has been operated prior to them being elected and they feel that an inspection is the only way to sort it out," said Duncan.