So….what’s on your minds?
That was the question a trio of Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties officials had for M.D. of Lesser Slave River councillors on April 12. Councillors were not shy about sharing some issues that trouble them.
For example: lack of clarity on aboriginal consultation, conversion of farmland back to wetlands, funding for rural schools and licensing fees on ATVs.
Consultation presents all sorts of headaches for municipalities when it comes to approving projects on Crown land. And it appears the provincial government isn’t helping much.
“It seems like it’s run amok on us,” said reeve Murray Kerik.
“They need to have an arbitration process,” said councillor Mike Skrynyk. “For example, we may have 80 per cent support and can’t go ahead (with a project). It’s a very flawed process.”
“There has to be some leadership from government,” said councillor Brad Pearson. “Business will go elsewhere.”
Fresh in council’s minds (but not specifically mentioned at the meeting) was the case of a local business that had applied to the M.D. for permission to set up a storage yard on Crown land near the landfill at Wagner. Thanks to the objections of a First Nation on the other end of the lake, this was held up.
Another process that’s not going the way some would like is the integrated watershed management plan, proposed by the Lesser Slave Watershed Council.
“We’re spinning our wheels,” said councillor Brad Pearson, without elaborating.
“It’s helpful to hear that,” said AAMD&C president Al Kemmere. He added, “The government is reviewing the consultation process. But (they) have limited jurisdiction.”
In other words, it’s federal.
Kemmere added that “the disputes are getting bigger, and it’s not only on Crown land.”
On the movement to reclaim farmland and turn it into wetland, Skrynyk said the proponents of that are “painting the whole province with the same brush.” What might work for the south certainly won’t work for the north, was what he seemed to be saying.
Kemmere noted, however, there is significant ‘pushback’ on the issue.
When it comes to efforts to look after species at risk, councillor Pearson said there should also be pushback. Kemmere agreed:
“If it keeps going the way it is, we’re going to sterilize so much land – caribou up here and other species down south.”
Referring to the possibly impact of caribou preservation on the forest products industry, Pearson said if industrial tax base is lost, other ratepayers are going to have to pick up the slack.
Councillor Darren Fulmore brought up the matter of funding for rural schools. It’s a matter of economic development, he said.
“Our communities suffer,” he said, when they lose their schools.
The other two AAMD&C members at the meeting were executive director Gerald Rhodes and Pembina Zone 3 rep John Whaley of Leduc County.
AAMD&C president Al Kemmere