Day 2 AUMA 2020: Together We Can!
The second day of AUMA 2020 kicked off its live sessions with a close out of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and a focus on political issues, hearing from political leaders from across the province. The leader of the opposition, Rachel Notley, was the first presenter of the day, speaking to several critical issues such as the downloading of provincial issues onto municipalities and the energy crisis. She hopes that there will be a stop to partisan politics and provincial leadership operating in a silo in order to bring the focus back to municipal issues. She provided an overview of the approach the New Democratic Party (NDP) would take to economic recovery, including a framework for matching infrastructure funding, funding for affordable housing and a solution to the issue of the education property tax. Following Rachel Notley’s address, Bill Karsten, President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) provided remarks on the national picture for funding for municipalities. He explained that the Safe Restart Agreement is pivotal for municipalities and for a nation-wide recovery. Further, he explained that FCM is committed to ongoing support for municipalities and providing important funding for key priorities.
Prior to the much-anticipated Minister’s Dialogue, Tracy Allard, Minister of Municipal Affairs provided an address. She understands that this is a difficult time to deliver municipal services and it will take collaboration in order to continue to do this effectively. Minister Allard explained that we are on the brink of a fiscal reckoning, where we will be forced to make choices. This is both good and bad news, it will allow the province and municipalities to fill those cracks and missed decision points to build a stronger foundation for Alberta.
Following the Minister’s address there were back to back Minister’s Dialogue, which allowed municipalities to ask directed questions to various Ministers. There were several topics of discussion, some of the most notable and repeated areas of interest included (but were not limited to): government cuts to economic development, particularly the 50% cut to the Regional Economic Development Alliances (REDA), whether this funding is still going to be provided and its criticality to survival—no concrete answers were provided; the need for better collaboration between urban and rural municipalities and the current divide that is leading to issues with service delivery; speaking to connectivity and additional broadband funding—where the Minister’s called for additional assistance from the federal government; and speaking to environmental goals and whether these are reasonable for Alberta communities.
Prior to the closing keynote, Premier Jason Kenny gave an address. Premier Kenny praised Alberta communities for their response to COVID-19 and avoiding a full shut down of the province while still maintaining some economic activity. He said the government wanted to continue to do more to provide jobs and economic recovery for the province.
To close out the conference, keynote speaker Hayley Wickenheiser, Olympic gold medalist for the Canadian women’s hockey team sent a message of hope for Canadians and Albertans for their ongoing resiliency both in sport and medicine.