Alberta municipal politicians were told Thursday they will be expected to do their part to help bring the province’s finances back to balance.
Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu urged delegates at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention in Edmonton to cut back spending now to share in future prosperity.
“We are in a tough economic situation right now, and it is my expectation that all of us will work together to overcome the current difficulties,” Madu said in his first appearance at the conference since being named municipal affairs minister at the end of April.
Details are scant on what that actually means. The MacKinnon report on Alberta finances, which is expected to provide a blueprint for the Oct. 24 budget, said the province can’t keep providing the same level of capital grants, particularly when municipalities have the ability to levy higher property taxes.
The report also recommended the province allocate funding for capital projects according to provincial priorities and make municipalities pay a larger share.
By talking about tough decisions and shared responsibility, Madu was making it clear that difficult days are ahead, said NDP municipal affairs critic Joe Ceci.
He accused Premier Jason Kenney of breaking a promise not to raise taxes.
“He’s not going to be raising taxes at the provincial level but certainly municipalities will have to do that to continue to have the services and programs that they want,” Ceci said.
Ceci said he has heard from some municipal leaders that the province intends to cut municipal sustainability initiative funding by 30 per cent.
Barry Morishita, AUMA president and mayor of Brooks, said he has heard that the cuts will be at a level municipalities can handle.
Morishita said a 30 per cent cut would cause huge problems.
“That will stop infrastructure, that will create deficits beyond what we have now, and that will impact communities very, very broadly,” he said.
“When you look at 10 to 15 per cent, there are certainly options for us to build our plans out based on that, knowing that there’s an upside in the future.”
Morishita said taxes wouldn’t have to go up as long as the cuts weren’t on the operating side of the ledger.