Premier Alison Redford speaks to the crowd at Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) meeting at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton Alberta on Wednesday, September 26, 2012.
Credits: PERRY MAH/QMI AGENCY
Redford took the podium at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) convention at Edmonton's Shaw Conference Centre to reassure Albertans the province will not respond to plummeting oil prices with funding cuts.
"I know, and you know, that our first quarter in terms of what is going on economically has caused uncertainty about funding," she said. "But we will not balance the budget on the backs of municipalities."
She said the province plans to review Alberta's Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) because officials believe it's outdated and incapable of reflecting the needs of municipalities today.
"We will update this act together for the 21st century so that it reflects the unique circumstance we're dealing with," said Redford. "And so it works better for all of us."
The premier - who took the stage to a lengthy applause - told the full house the review opens a channel of dialogue with municipalities in which they can weigh in on what the program will look like going forward.
"The review will unfold over the next three years, so there will be plenty of time for input, dialogue and participation," she said. "The next step in our review is to develop a three-year funding plan for budgets from 2013 through 2016.
Edmonton city councillor and AUMA president Linda Sloan said it's definitely time for an overhaul of the MSI program and she's thrilled AUMA members will have a chance to voice their concerns during the review process.
"We're certainly giving input into the needs of municipalities and the fact that, at this time, conditional grants just don't cut it," she said. "We need to have more flexible and assured funding sources to do the core work municipalities need to do."
Reassured by Redford's address, Sloan said the MSI has been a much appreciated supplement but spread far too thinly.
"Currently, in the 2012 budget, municipalities - where most of Alberta's population resides - received less than 2% of the $40-billion revenue the province took in," she said.
"So, we want to work with the province to have more concrete input into the allocation of resources in 2013 supplementing the MSI funding."