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Minister offers 2014 budget insights

Posted on March 28, 2014 by Vauxhall Advance

In the provincial budget announced earlier this month, a number of key investments are being promised by the PCs to support municipalities in the areas of infrastructure and development.

With Alberta’s rapid population growth — population levels crested at four million in 2013 — continued investment in municipal infrastructure has been planned over the next three years, totalling $5.1 billion.

More than $2 billion in direct funding for municipalities across all ministries will be provided for 2014.

Budget 2014 will also invest $3.7 billion over three years under the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI), and there will be $162 million more for transit, and an additional $20 million to support community partnerships.

“There is Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding, we’re augmenting that by $150 million over the next three years, an additional amount that was over and above what was already committed and identified in a previous budget,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Ken Hughes.

In 2014-15, there will be $1.24 billion available under the MSI umbrella. This includes the Basic Municipal Transportation Grant (BMTG), which has moved from Transportation to Municipal Affairs. The breakdown of funding under the MSI program will be $871 million for MSI capital, $30 million for MSI operating, and $343 million for BMTG.

Since the MSI program was created in 2007, it has provided about $4.8 billion to municipalities, including support for more than 4,000 capital projects identified by local councils as their priorities.

A total of $20 million will move into the new Alberta Community Partnership (previously called the Regional Collaboration Program), making it a $49 million program in 2014-15.

The Alberta Community Partnership is designed to encourage municipalities to work together on developing and implementing strategic long-term plans that improve service delivery.

“We’ve also put additional funds into the Alberta Community Partnership to encourage regional collaboration amongst municipalities,” said Hughes.

Government is also spending $19.9 million in capital funding in 2014-15 on water management infrastructure for minor rehabilitation projects throughout the province, and will be pumping $75 million into the Water for Life Strategy and the Municipal Water/Wastewater Program in 2014-15 and $225 million over the next three years.

Funding for Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) will be maintained in 2014-15 at $76.1 million.

Hughes views the announcement that Lethbridge will remain as a regional EMS dispatch centre as a positive development for all southern Albertans concerned about service delivery involving ground ambulance.

“Really positive developments in the last couple of weeks, working with Fred Horne, the Minister of Health, and the MLAs from the Lethbridge area, as well as Red Deer and Fort McMurray,” he said. “We were able to create a solution here where we continue to have dispatch — in fact the people who are in Lethbridge and doing dispatch will become part of a provincial system for EMS dispatch, that’s a really positive development. The upside is, of course, first of all you keep jobs in Lethbridge, and you have people who understand the southern part of the province who will continue to be involved in dispatch. It supports the capacity of Lethbridge and surrounding municipalities to be able to continue to have the kind of first responder dispatch that they really need.”

Flood recovery and mitigation projects are also on the agenda, with $859 million set aside to help communities limit the impact of future flood events.

“We’re continuing to support those who were affected by the flood last year, and we’re doing mitigation throughout southern Alberta, working with municipalities,” said Hughes.

“Some weren’t as affected as others, but communities that were affected are receiving some support for mitigation, smaller projects that can be done before the spring flood risk season. So we’re working with the municipalities to make sure that happens.”

Municipalities will also receive an additional $2.3 million in 2014-15 for a total of $83.4 million through the Municipal Policing Assistance Grants and the Police Officer Grant.

Additional funding indirectly provided for policing has increased by $14.5 million to $268.6 million through the Provincial Police Service Agreement with the RCMP, First Nations policing and ALERT (Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams), on top of an estimated $136 million in provincial traffic fine revenue returned to municipalities.

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