Smoky River Regional
Twice a year the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) holds a conference at which elected officials and administration from Alberta’s municipal districts and councils get together to attend workshops, meet with government officials and gather with provincially elected MLA’s to address the work of rural councils.
I have attended the conferences for many years and always find it worthwhile.
Excellent breakout sessions on topics relevant to rural municipal management are offered, the conference offers a great opportunity to network with other rural municipalities and brings attendees an opportunity to meet with provincial Ministers who speak to rural councils on what the government is working on.
One of the key attractions to the conference is the bear pit; a session where the Alberta Ministers sit on the stage, each gives a two-minute speech on what their ministry is doing and the audience has the opportunity to ask the ministers questions.
In all the years I have gone to the conference, traditionally the premier gets a standing ovation and the audience is polite and amicable.
Last year, the first year the NDP was the governing body, the premier still got a standing ovation and the audience asked relevant questions with the hope of getting a relevant answer. This year things had changed. There is no doubt rural Alberta is feeling ignored by the present government.
The government’s implementation of Bill 6, the bill regarding farm employees, the closure of coal generation, the increasing of minimum wage, and perhaps most contentious, the carbon tax. While it is true that all people will be impacted by the carbon tax, it will likely impact rural Albertans more than anyone else.
After all, rurals need to drive for everything, whether it be for our kids to go to school, medical appointments and even accessing government services, usually requires a trip to a provincial or federal building located in a larger city or town. So of course, rural councillors are a bit upset by many of these changes that will have their greatest impact to rural residents.
And, sure enough, at this November’s AAMDC, rural councillors let the NDP government hear their dissatisfaction. It started with polite applause as just eight provincial Ministers made their way to the stage. Usually the stage is set for about 16 Minister’s, an excellent representation from the government and a sign that the government sees the rural voice as being important.
Needless to say some conference attendees took notice that just eight Ministers felt it was important to meet with elected councillors representing all of rural Alberta, and indeed one of the comments made at the microphone was exactly that. That was soon followed by another comment from another councillor about the need for the NDP government to start listening to the voters.
Another councillor expressed disappointment that they have been trying to meet with the Minister of transportation. The minister responded that he is completely booked all week with meetings with rural municipalities and perhaps they should have tried booking an appointment sooner. The response from the councillor was “we have been trying since April.”
But perhaps the biggest indication of rural council’s unhappiness with the government came when Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman spoke to the carbon tax that will implemented in just over a month. The audience booed. Not just one or two people, not a handful of people, but the entire delegation numbering well over 400 people. And they didn’t just boo once, they booed a couple times.
The Deputy Premier remained adamant, they were elected on the platform of implementing a carbon tax and so they would, regardless of what the councillors in the audience thought.
And then the Premier addressed the crowd. She arrived to a lukewarm reception, spoke for 15 minutes and left to a lukewarm applause.
Are the NDP right to move forward with their election promises? I’m not sure. Is Donald Trump right to move forward with his election promise?