By Cole Parkinson
The Municipal District of Taber may soon see a new staff member who specializes in climate change impacts.
With the Federation of Canadian Municipalities funding a staffing grant for up to $125,000 of a new or existing municipal employee who will work on projects revolving around local climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the M.D. of Taber are looking into the grant.
“What you have in front of you here is a request for council decision regarding a potential application for Federation of Canadian Municipalities. They have a Climate Innovation Program grant that’s available until the end of June,” said Kirk Hughes, development and community safety officer for the M.D. “This grant is one of those federal government initiatives to kind of tackle some of the issues in regard to climate change and how that climate change can affect our agricultural economic base here in the M.D. of Taber.”
The Municipalities for Climate Innovation Program features $75 million funded by the Government of Canada to encourage municipalities to prepare and be ready for climate change while also looking into reducing greenhouse gases.
The program would cover approximately two years at a cost of only 20 per cent of the salary up to $125,000.
“This grant is looking to support a climate change officer or innovation officer. They are willing to provide up to $125,000 to supplement the salary of a new or an existing municipal employee, we don’t have one tailored for the position. However, sometimes those adaptions do occur,” added Hughes.
While no one currently holds this type of position within the M.D. staff, the grant would allow them to hire an additional person or add the title to an existing staff member, if they so choose.
If the council was interested in pursuing the grant further, there were projects in mind already that the new member could be hired to oversee.
One on the minds of many deals with drainage and flood mitigation.
With 2018’s massive floods across the region, a plan of attack is on the top of the list of things that need to be completed.
“We would use this person to look at some of our flood mitigation, some of our master drainage which would be some large and very important work that has to get done. This position is a two year position and we could utilize them to orchestrate or manage that work for us,” continued Hughes.
With the program only covering two years, council had worries about bringing on a new worker for only two years.
“It’s easier to hire staff but it’s hard once you get them on. It’s hard to (keep) them once the funding is gone,” said Reeve Brian Brewin.
No current knowledge has been shared whether or not there would be a possibility of the grant being expanded past the original two years.
That being said, Hughes was confident the guaranteed two years they would get would be beneficial for the M.D.
Even if the major projects don’t see full completion throughout the two years, he believes that a good start will have happened at the very least.
“I’m hoping within that two year timespan, we would have some of our major projects at least, if not under way, at least properly setup, planned and managed especially master drainage,” said Hughes.
With the well documented decline of the oil and gas industry in Alberta, the M.D. has been forced to rely on various means to close the gap.
One of the biggest industries they lean on is the agriculture industry which is a vast and expanding business in the region.
With this grant, they have hopes of keeping things in as best of shape as they can for the farmers especially when it comes to floods.
With plenty of large events over the past several years, floods have become a huge talking point in the M.D.
“Agriculture is the driving engine of this organization. If we don’t have pieces in place to mitigate droughts or floods, that’s a huge economic disaster for this country and certainly for us,” continued Hughes.
With Brewin’s hesitation to move forward with the thought the hired candidate would only be here for only two years, council was hesitant to make any motions to apply.
Staff though assured them that putting forward an application would be a good idea.
“You have until the end of June before the grant has to be in and it doesn’t cost nothing but a little bit of time to put a grant application together,” said Jack Dunsmore, director of planning and infrastructure.
Council agreed to allow Hughes to draft an application.