Letter – Town declined $148,000 offer to buy hospital land May 18, 2023, writes McIver

Editor’s note: Sharon Cox wrote the Alberta government Feb. 10 with concerns regarding the sale of the former High Prairie Health Complex land. Cox shared the response she received from Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver March 14. South Peace News sent a letter with similar questions to McIver, Health Minister Adriana LaGrange and Lesser Slave Lake MLA Scott Sinclair but received no response. LaGrange and Sinclair also received the letter sent to Cox.

Thank you for your email of Feb. 10, 2024, regarding the purchase of the former High Prairie Health Complex property. I appreciate that you expect transparency and accountability in the governance of your community. I have consulted with my colleague, the Hon. Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health, and am pleased to share the following information.

Under the Municipal Government Act (MGA), municipalities are charged with the responsibility to provide good government, services, facilities, and other things council deems necessary or desirable for the people in the municipality. Managing such broad and important responsibilities requires balancing current and future community needs within the limitation of available resources.

With respect to the purchase of the former High Prairie Health Complex property, Minister LaGrange has shared that Alberta Health Services (AHS) was in communication with town administration over the potential purchase of the property. On May 18, 2023, AHS was advised that the town would not pursue purchasing the property, allowing AHS to proceed with the sale of the lands. As such, the property was put up for sale and sold. It is my understanding the town submitted an offer that was lower than the anticipated bid.

Regarding the culvert located on the property, on Feb. 3, 2021, AHS announced that the Government of Alberta approved a project to demolish all buildings on the property. The demolition project including reclamation) was completed in fall 2022. During the demolition, the town identified stormwater flowing through the property via an underground culvert stormwater line. In August 2022, the contractor for the Ministry of Infrastructure prepared an engineered plan to replace the underground culvert with an above-ground ravine post-demolition.

The MGA sets out clear requirements for municipal councils to conduct their business openly, except in very limited and specific circumstances. The matters that can be discussed in a closed session fall within Division 2, Part 1, of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act. These include issues relating to information that can be harmful to personal privacy, individual or public safety, law enforcement, intergovernmental relations, or economic or other interests; reveal confidential evaluations, local public body confidences, or advice from officials; or disclose information that is subject to legal privilege.

If the information you requested was presented or discussed in an open council meeting, it is a public document. However, if an exception to disclosure under the FOIP Act applies to the information, and it was discussed in a closed session of the council meeting, a formal FOIP request and fee would be required. As such, you may wish to inquire with the municipal office about initiating a request for the specific information that fs of interest to you.

(McIver suggests contacting the Town of High Prairie office for details.)

Ric McIver,
Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs

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