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Municipal Affairs Speaking Notes

Municipal Affairs Speaking Notes

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Published by: christopher_raes on Oct 21, 2010
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Municipal Affairs – Speaking Notes – October 21, 2010 – CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY Thank you, and good morning everyone

. Before I begin, I’d like to thank the City of Red Deer for allowing us to be here today and, of course, all of you for coming out for this policy announcement. We are here in Red Deer today to unveil the latest of our policies, and in light of municipal elections earlier this week, we think it’s a great time to talk about municipalities and infrastructure. There were several exciting races across the province in those elections, and Albertans are anxious to see what their newly elected councils will do and how their representatives will perform. The Wildrose shares in that anticipation. As the level of government most connected to the daily lives of Albertans, the Wildrose fully supports the role of municipalities. We believe municipalities should be empowered to set their own priorities and equipped with the financial resources to meet the needs of their citizens. Unfortunately, that has not been the case in Alberta in recent years. Like local hospitals and schools, municipalities have become another casualty of this government’s tendency to centralize and consolidate decision-making power. Funding that should be going to support counties, towns and cities ends up wasted in unnecessary bureaucracy, and municipalities are forced to go cap-in-hand to the provincial treasury in the hopes of getting approval for the projects and services their residents require. We have even heard that municipalities are having to hire full-time staff just to fill out provincial grant applications, as if infrastructure dollars are some sort of prize to be won with government bureaucrats acting as the judge. It’s no wonder municipalities with crumbling roads and aging public facilities face infrastructure backlogs that stretch a generation. The current patchwork of municipal grants and funding programs offer no cash-flow predictability. And with no long-term funding formula from the province, infrastructure planning becomes mired in uncertainty, and key projects languish on the drawing board while frustrated residents wait and wait. The money that does flow from provincial coffers usually finds its way into constituencies only where the MLA has enough political clout to lobby on their behalf, or ends up going to fund to some ill-conceived pet project nobody asked for. For instance, no one asked to spend billions to pump CO2 into the ground. No one asked the province to spend billions on unneeded power lines. But there is mounting frustration that Anthony Henday overpasses aren’t being built fast enough in Edmonton and the much-needed airport tunnel in Calgary doesn’t even register on the government’s radar. Instead the PC government has been lurching from project to project with no priorities and throwing money around based on everything except actual need.

Municipal Affairs – Speaking Notes – October 21, 2010 – CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY Our Wildrose MLAs have asked the government time and time again to release a list of priority capital projects and the criteria used to establish it, and time and time again the government refuses. Why? Because no such list exists. Albertans deserve better, and a Wildrose Government would deliver better. We would do away with the current mishmash of funding streams and grants and provide municipalities with a predictable new funding model tied to the growth of provincial tax revenues. Municipalities simply cannot provide good planning without knowing what they have to work with; and by legislating funding, we remove the risk of internal politicking by ministers and bureaucrats. We would also conduct an immediate and thorough assessment to determine Alberta’s actual infrastructure deficit. There has never been a comprehensive infrastructure audit in this province, and that’s part of the reason why this government has no idea where to send money – it doesn’t know where the need is greatest. And in the absence of needs assessment, the government conducts its own political assessment of where schools, hospitals and roads should be built. With a publicly disclosed list of priority projects and stable, predictable funding, Alberta municipalities would finally start to see their infrastructure backlogs shrink. We believe that approach would also lead to a reduction in spending. Right now, Alberta spends about twice the national average on infrastructure, mainly because the government can’t resist the temptation to break the bank during boom time. That kind of overspending only drives up inflation, thereby increasing business costs and creating labour shortages in periods of economic growth when we need workers the most. In consultation with municipalities, a Wildrose Government would also conduct a review of the entire property taxation regime in Alberta and examine new and better ways to fund our municipalities. We must ensure a level playing field for businesses and ratepayers, so Albertans can be confident in the fairness of our tax system. Albertans want to see a solid, smart and sensible plan for the future of this province. Albertans are tired of the government taking credit for megaprojects nobody wants, when badly needed facilities and upgrades go ignored. Municipalities are tired of begging for the government’s generosity, only to have money promised – then delayed – then reduced – then restored – and then promised again in a big re-announcement. And taxpayers are tired of footing the bill for this government’s habit of rewarding political loyalty. Our plan would put an end to all of this and restore fairness and predictability across the board for all municipalities in Alberta. Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.

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