Recently, a number of City councillors and I had the privilege of attending the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) 2014 Convention in Edmonton, where a great number of issues of municipal concern were discussed.
The AUMA provides leadership in advocating local government interests to the provincial government and other organizations and provides services that address the needs of its membership.
It cooperates with the government of Alberta in the continued development of sound municipal governance, recommends amendments to city policies and cooperates with any other provincial bodies having similar aims.
Lacombe’s membership in the AUMA is valuable, not only for the reasons outlined above but it also allows us to better network with other municipalities and raise our profile with the provincial government by building mutually beneficial relationships within the various ministries.
There were a great number of items discussed at the 2014 AUMA Convention. I will touch briefly on a few issues I believe can have significant implications for Lacombe.
There is an urgent need for a municipal water policy on stormwater that seeks to mitigate flooding and restore natural drainage capacity to pre-development levels; protect water quality, aquatic ecosystem health and minimize impacts on downstream water users.
AUMA is asking the Alberta government to update provincial storm water management guidelines, and to establish a regulatory framework that is more supportive of stormwater reuse projects, protection of wetlands, and flood mitigation that addresses urban flooding as well as riverine flooding.
The Association will also advocate that the federal government resume the Municipal Water and Wastewater Survey program as it provides a valuable benchmark for assessing the efforts of municipalities across the country and the effectiveness of water and wastewater management policies from other jurisdictions.
With regards to schools, AUMA is urging the Alberta government to consider policy direction that ensures costs related to the provision of larger high school sites, land, services, parking lots and playing fields be the responsibility of the provincial government.
The provincial government would serve as contractor when developing new schools, share the costs associated with the development of lands and clearly express what the municipality is expected to financially contribute to the project.
The Association is also urging the Alberta government to revise the MGA and the School Act, making the province solely responsible for the collection of education property taxes. AUMA’s position is that property taxes should be used exclusively for municipal purposes.
A major concern raised at the convention involved the revisions to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which has been an important workforce strategy for our City’s labour shortages, especially in the service sector.
Municipalities and business around the province are concerned that recent program changes will restrict access to much-needed workers and jeopardize Alberta’s economic growth.
AUMA believes that federal actions should focus on providing greater clarity on how employers can adequately demonstrate an inability to hire a Canadian worker and to implement process changes
to reduce the cost and time of the Temporary Foreign Worker application process.
Lacombe, along with other member municipalities, fully supports the need to monitor the program and ensure it is being appropriately used.
However, I question why employers in our community are being penalized by restrictive changes when only a small percentage of employers are inappropriately using the program.
Even with the actions already underway to engage under-represented Canadians in our workforce, Alberta needs a responsive and effective Temporary Foreign Worker Program as a key component to address its chronic and increasing labour shortages.
I am now in my fourth year of serving on the AUMA Board of Directors and third year on the Executive as the Vice-president of Cities up to 500,000.
As an elected representative for the City of Lacombe, I want to serve the public and be an active participant in influencing positive change and being a board member provides me with additional opportunities to do so.
Steve Christie is the mayor of Lacombe.