Livingstone-Macleod MLA Pat Stier last week grilled the new municipal affairs minister about key funding for Fort Macleod and other municipalities.
During Question Period in the Alberta Legislature, Stier pressed New Democrat minister Deron Bilous for a long-term commitment for the Municipal Sustainability Initiative.
Stier said the issue was raised at a recent meeting of the mayors and reeves in southern Alberta.
“The members are worried because they have received no updated information from this government,” Wildrose MLA Stier said in the legislature.
Stier pressed Bilous to commit to guaranteeing the MSI funding promised by the previous Conservative government.
Bilous said the New Democrats will ensure MSI grants reach municipalities.
“I ask them to be a little more patient,” Bilous said.
Stier wasn’t satisfied with that answer, rising to ask a supplementary question.
“Our local decision-makers really deserve a better answer than that,” Stier said.
Stier pointed out the government requires municipalities to prepare three-year financial plans and five-year capital plans.
“How can municipalities possibly prepare financial plans and capital plans when they don’t know how much MSI funding the government intends to give them before the fall?” Stier asked.
Bilous referred to the Interim Supply Bill introduced earlier by the New Democrats.
“The member and municipalities will be able to see what this government is proposing as far as the dollars for MSI and for many of the other important grants that municipalities get,” Bilous said.
Stier rose for a second supplementary question, noting municipal leaders wrote Municipal Affairs demanding that at the time of the release of the 2015-’16 budget this fall that MSI funding also be fully disclosed.
“Local decision-makers need to know how much MSI funding they’ll be getting in order to plan for the future, not what is in the Interim Supply (bill)” Stier said. “Will you communicate this vital information to them today?”
Bilous said it would be irresponsible for him to make promises before his government had deliberated its budget.
“I appreciate municipalities are very eager to get answers,” Bilous said. “I can tell you that we are committed . . . to ensuring that municipalities have the resources and the tools available to ensure they can provide services to their constituents.”
“I ask the member and the municipalities to be patient, and the answer will be forthcoming.”