If the annual Alberta Urban Municipalities Association’s Spring Mayors’ Caucus is any indication, the provincial government is continuing plans to encourage intermunicipal relationships between communities and making decisions that will affect long term budgets of the municipalities.
City of Wetaskiwin mayor Bill Elliot attended the two-day caucus, held March 7 and 8, and said more than 300 mayors from across the province converged in Edmonton to discuss the provincial budget, funding for municipalities, and the marijuana and hemp industry among many other topics.
In an interview with the Pipestone Flyer on March 9 Elliot said he was unable to speak to the provincial budget at that time but was able to shed a little light on municipal sustainability initiative (MSI) funding.
“The minister (of municipal affairs) Shaye Anderson said there will be MSI funding in the new budget, but he couldn’t say how much,” said Elliot.
Another component being added to municipal budgets this year: RCMP costs are being increased. By how much Elliot did not know.
“This has happened two years in a row. It was fairly heavy,” said Elliot.
He says the challenge facing municipalities is they have to fit the increased costs into their budgets but do not know what years will include the increases.
Elliot says after the municipal election this fall locally elected officials will be be required to complete training, and a code of ethics will be developed for councils.
Municipalities will also be required to develop a three year operating budget and a five year capital capital budget, he added.
The legalization of marijuana was another topic of interest during the caucus, and Elliot says municipalities are already seeing challenges that could surface with the legalization of the drug.
“Drug impaired driving is on the rise and police don’t have the the perfect solution to test for drug impaired driving,” said Elliot.
Municipal representatives also discussed the growing interest of a hemp industry in Alberta. It will take time and research to see if it is a feasible option for the region and Alberta’s agricultural producers, as the product can be hard on the modified equipment.