No talks of forcing MD into Calgary Regional Partnership
Foothills: Premier committed to maintaining municipal funding
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 06, 2013 06:00 am
During a visit to Okotoks and High River last week Premier Alison Redford assured the MD of Foothills it will not be forced to join the Calgary Regional Partnership.
“We think that any regional planning, whether it be the (Calgary) regional partnership or the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan (SSRP) only works if you are bringing people together for common cause,” Redford said in an interview in High River on Feb. 1. “The view of the MD of Foothills, which might be right, is with the South Saskatchewan Regional Plan, we see a larger overarching planning framework that deals with a lot of the issues that were part of the Calgary Regional Partnership.”
She said Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffith is doing a review to see if the Calgary partnership is working.
The MD of Foothills, along with the MDs of Rocky View and Wheatland pulled out of the Calgary Regional Partnership in 2009 due in part to the governance model which the rural municipalities believed gives Calgary too much power in the partnership and density issues.
“Quite frankly, if people are pulling out of it, it likely isn’t achieving what we wanted it to do which is an integrated regional plan,” said Redford, who was in High River to talk with High River and MD of Foothills councils.
MD of Foothills Reeve Larry Spilak said the SSRP does meet the MD of Foothills concerns and he wants the premier to know it supports the plan.
“We were so impressed with the SSRP that we felt we should write her and let her know our feelings,” Spilak said. “Those feelings are the SSRP covers everything that is required for rural municipalities to exist. We told her the Calgary Regional Plan isn’t necessary once the SSRP is implemented.”
The SSRP doesn’t cover density in a municipality, something the Calgary plan has suggested.
“Density isn’t something the SSRP addresses and it shouldn’t,” Spilak said. “Density is something that individual municipalities should address. It shouldn’t be put on to a jurisdiction by someone like Calgary in trade for water.
“It is not Calgary’s responsibility to dictate the density in other jurisdictions. That’s where we have a problem with the CRP.”
Redford said she hopes the South Saskatchewan plan will also help deal with Okotoks’ water issues. However, there is no one solution to help Okotoks water concerns at this point. She said buying licences from the City of Calgary is part of the discussion.
“People look at the Calgary licences as a particularly large licence,” Redford said. “But there is no single piece that is part of the solution… Finding a solution that addresses Calgary and the surrounding area could impact other people in other parts of Alberta.”
Calgary presently has water licenses to accommodate three million people.
The premier said Diana McQueen, minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, is expected to be in the foothills in the next month to discuss water issues in the area.
Redford stressed to the MD of Foothills council, infrastructure funding to communities will not be compromised despite an announced $6 billion shortfall in provincial revenues.
She said the Province will continue to support the Municipal Sustainability Initiative.
“We want local governments to know that we are committed to that program and frankly other political parties aren’t,” she said. “If they say they are, but talk about not building infrastructure unless there is cash in the bank, there is no rational way you can ever say that you support MSI and we have decided we will.”
Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith, the Highwood MLA, said she wasn’t sure which party the premier was talking about.
“She couldn’t be talking about us,” said Smith, the leader of the Opposition. “The municipal leaders know what our plan is — our 10-10 plan. That would identify 10 per cent of provincial tax revenue and flow through directly to every municipality every year, year after year… We know over the long run our plan will give more money to municipalities. I think most municipalities would welcome the certainly our plan would give.”
She estimated the Wildrose 10-10 plan would generate approximately $1.8 billion for municipalities in 2013-14 fiscal year.
Meanwhile, the MD is relieved MSI funding won’t be compromised for this year.
“She (Redford) didn’t speak of increasing the funds, but she assured us the funds are in place,” Spilak said. “That is important because I believe most of the municipalities have set their budgets on those funds.”