Alberta budget leaves M.D. of Peace ‘frustrated’

Richard Froese
South Peace News

The M.D. of Peace is frustrated by funding cuts in the provincial budget announced Feb. 25.

Reeve Robert Willing says reduced funding to the Municipal Sustain- ability Initiative [MSI] program will be deeply felt by municipalities and local taxpayers.

“It is disappointing to see the reduction of the MSI funding,” Willing says.

“We understand the current fiscal situation of the provincial government, however, a 25 per cent reduction really hits the municipalities hard.

“We rely on this funding for capital projects such as roads and bridges and this large of a reduction will really affect those projects.”

Cuts are scheduled to start in 2022.

Another issue the M.D. faces is unpaid property taxes from oil and gas companies.

“The MSI reduction, as well as no solution to the current crises of unpaid oil and gas taxes, is of particular concern,” Willing says.

“Even though our municipality has fared better than others in our region, unpaid taxes is a hard pill to swallow, especially when the oil and gas companies seem to be benefitting from provincial tax cuts and incentives.”

The issue was not addressed in the budget.

“Ultimately there is only one taxpayer in the province and even though the provincial government has said ‘no tax increases’, cuts to the municipalities force us to either raise taxes or cut services,” Willing says.

“Neither option is what we would like for our ratepayers.”

Reduced provincial funding puts municipalities in a difficult situation.

“Anytime you get a funding cut, not just through the budget, projects and services have to be examined as to their continued viability,” Willing says.

“Higher taxes or service reductions are not pleasant options.”

Willing says Peace River MLA Dan Williams and Central Peace – Notley MLA Todd Loewen are well aware of the local concerns.

“We will continue to be in contact with MLA Dan Williams and MLA Todd Loewen for all matters that affect our ratepayers,” Willing says.

Despite the challenges, the M.D. is committed to find solutions to overcome the financial crunch caused by COVID-19 and reduced oil and gas.

“Although there are components of the budget that we disagree with, we are committed to continue to work with the provincial government and advocate for our residents and the Peace area as a whole,” Willing says.

The M.D. welcomes many positives in the budget.

“We are pleased by the decision to maintain funding levels for libraries and Family and Community Support Services,” Williing says.

“Maintaining funding levels for Alberta’s agricultural service boards is also crucial to supporting a strong agriculture industry across our region.”

Willing says the M.D. also appreciates funding dedicated to offset municipal administrative costs related to the upcoming referendum and senate election process.

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