‘We’re becoming bank machines’

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

The rising cost of living had one High Prairie resident angry enough to attend town council’s meeting Jan. 25 to express her frustration.
Rina Cunningham told council the last two years the increased cost of living is “treacherous for some families. We’re all struggling.”
Cunningham, who lives near St. Andrew’s School in the southeast end of town, asked council why the utility bills increased.
“A lot of people feel the same as me. It’s [the town bill] more than half my mortgage.”
Mayor Brian Panasiuk explained the gas bill increased because of the higher cost of gas, which council has no control over. He called the increase “huge” what council pays and added the gas producers claimed it was a supply and demand issue.
Panasiuk added the Town adds $1.60 above the wholesale price to distribute the product.
Regarding water, it is a cost council does control.
“Every time someone turns on the tap we’re losing money,” said CAO Rod Risling.
As a result, council increased rates to move toward a break-even point.
Basic fees for water, sewer and gas did increase $5 per month starting in January.
Risling reminded Cunningham in regard to taxes that council forgave one month of the municipal portion in 2021 due to COVID pandemic hardships. Overall, he said, tax rates have decreased 6 1/2 per cent in two years.
Further compounding problems for council is $1 million lost in grants in 2022.
“That has to be made up somewhere,” said Risling.
Cunningham was still concerned.
“I feel like the goal of the government is to put us all in the street,” she said.
Panasiuk was sympathetic.
“I know how hard it is with all the increases in expenses,” he said, adding council was struggling to keep the basic services operating without a tax increase.
Councillor John Dunn replied council was not entirely to blame and that the federal carbon tax was “eating people up” and increasing the cost for council to do its business.
“We’re becoming bank machines,” said Cun- ningham. “They’re [government] no longer serving the people. We’re being bullied.
“We can’t afford to pay any more,” she added. “There’s nothing we can do. We just have to take it.”
“I can assure you the people around this table are trying their best for the residents of High Prairie,” said Panasiuk.
After the meeting, Cunningham said she realizes there is a cost to run the town but remains frustrated.
“Everyone is drowning here,” she said.

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