Food For Thought During This Election Period
The Westlock News of Tuesday, October 1, I noticed the following in an article:
“…First Step – The joint councils for the town (of Westlock), county (of Westlock) and the village of Clyde have approved the next step in the potential amalgamation of the three municipalities. On Sept. 26th the three municipalities agreed to apply for the province’s Regional Collaboration Program grant.
“If successful, the municipalities would receive about $250,000 towards a study to examine possible governance options and strategic approaches to best provide an effective and efficient regional government.”
There is more to the article that provides detail which is Westlock-specific. I reread the whole article several times with GREAT interest.
The Provincial Government website under ‘program description’ of the “Regional Collaboration Program” it says:
“The objective of the Regional Collaboration Program (RCP) is to improve the viability and long-term sustainability of municipalities through strategic activities related to regional collaboration and capacity building.”
The website goes on to outline “Key Program Outcomes”:
• Significant regional approaches to municipal service delivery & governance;
• Improved overall municipal capacity to respond to municipal priorities & to build and maintain effective intermunicipal relations through joint and collaborative activities; and
• Strong intermunicipal relations that result in strengthened identities and improved quality of life
An email was sent to Municipal Affairs asking questions about the status of the Municipal Sustainable Initiative (MSI) funding and the apparent movement of funds OUT of the MSI program into the new Regional Collaboration Program. The following information was contained in the response:
• The MSI funding (operating and capital) will be discontinued in 2016.
• Municipalities will have the opportunity to adjust their plans and budgets as the realignment takes place over the next three years.
(Note to self: I wonder when our Town Administration was going to tell the people of Morinville?)
• In order to address transformational change, Municipal Affairs’ focus over the next years will shift away from operating support and towards encouragement of municipalities to work together to achieve regional objectives. The reduction of funding through the MSI operating component of the program will be realigned with the Regional Collaboration Program (RCP).
• It should be noted that there has been no change to the funding levels of the MSI capital component for 2014 and 2015.
The one statement that strikes me as being really important to all of us is that Alberta Municipal Affairs’ focus over the next few years will shift AWAY from operating support (which currently relates to large MSI funding grants every year) and towards encouragement of municipalities to work together to achieve regional objectives.
My interpretation of this is that there will no longer be a whack of funding for each individual municipality, but rather the bulk of funding will be given to those who are best able to “get along”.
In closing, if the Town of Westlock, the County of Westlock and the Village of Clyde are already on the bandwagon and moving towards examining the possible governance options and strategic approaches to best provide an effective and efficient regional government, why aren’t we? If Administration knew about this upcoming change in direction why was nothing said to the general population?
I look forward to the 2014 budget challenge, as I believe that this year the hard questions will HAVE to be answered by someone!