By MorinvilleNews.com Staff
Red Deer – Wildrose Alliance Leader Danielle Smith released the party’s Municipalities and Infrastructure policy at Red Deer City Hall Thursday, a document the leader refers to as a work in progress like the party’s other policies.
In a video press release on the policy, Smith said she has seen firsthand the backlog in municipal infrastructure projects in Alberta, but realizes the province cannot continue lurching between over spending and under spending.
Smith said in recent years, when the province has been overbuilding, infrastructure spending has driven up inflation causing the province to pay more for projects than they otherwise would.
The Wildrose Alliance Leader noted a more recent problem was building projects, including schools and hospitals that the government could not afford to staff.
“On the municipal side, it’s just as bad,” Smith said. “We’ve got decisions being made based on politics rather than based on the needs of a community. Municipalities feel they have to go begging, cap in hand, to be able to get their projects on the priority list. This is pitting one community against another.”
Smith said she has heard of some municipalities employing full-time staff just to be able to apply for municipal grant programs. The leader said the province needs to find a way to build what is needed at a price that is affordable.
The party’s answer to accomplishing that begins with creating a true priority list that identifies backlogged infrastructure projects with an eye towards clearing that backlog.
Additionally, the party wants to look at overall spending levels, reducing them to reasonable numbers. “Right now we’re spending two times – sometimes even four times – as much as the Canadian Average,” Smith said, noting if Alberta adopted the Canadian average it would have a long-term and sustainable infrastructure program.
The Wildrose Alliance leader said her party would like to develop a long-term funding formula for municipalities that is predictable.
“We need to have the funding formula based on the total amount of provincial revenues so that municipalities know that when revenues go up, their own revenues go up,” Smith said, adding that the reverse would be true when provincial revenues decrease. “That will allow for better planning.”
The party would also like to see a review of the property tax system because they feel market value assessment is causing huge strains in many communities in Alberta for small business and seniors on fixed income.
“We need to have a look at the property tax system to see if there is a better way that we can raise revenues in our local municipalities,” Smith said.