EDMONTON — Albertans don’t need a crystal ball to predict an upcoming election, and rural councilors aren’t relying on soothsayers to ensure their message is relayed to politicians.
Instead, the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties has launched a campaign to help rural councillors get their message to politicians during the expected provincial election.
As a way to keep rural issues top of mind for all politicians, it distributed more than 1,500 RURAL AB licence plates to be put on vehicles’ front bumpers as a reminder of the importance of rural Alberta, president Al Kemmere said during the association’s convention.
“The licence plate is one of the tools to bring acknowledgment that rural Alberta is important,” he said.
“We play a huge role in the economy of Alberta, and we need you to help get that message out.… We know the economy of this province starts in rural Alberta.”
However, he said he doesn’t know if all politicians and people who live in Calgary and Edmonton understand the importance of rural Alberta.
“It is just trying to make sure all MLAs in the future and the public understands that rural Alberta is alive and well.”
The provincial government’s budget will be released March 26, and Alberta premier Jim Prentice told the councilors rural communities are part of an economic development team.
“We must work together as communities, regions, non-profit organizations and all sectors of government to share our knowledge with one another, so we can all walk down the same economic pathway,” he said.
Kemmere said he knows everyone’s budgets will be cut during the upcoming budget, but he doesn’t want rural municipalities to be hit harder than other sectors because they are responsible for massive infrastructure projects.
“We are advocating hard on bridge funding,” he said.
“We all know how hard it is to move oil and gas, move agriculture, move forestry, get people in and out of their communities; Bridge funding is a major, major issue for rural Alberta. We will wait to see what is in the budget.”
He also wants to ensure that taxes generated in rural Alberta stay in rural Alberta and not siphoned off to Calgary and Edmonton, as some mayors and government officials would like.
“Now, the commercial industrial tax from oil and gas goes into the counties to help cover cost of roads. There is a desire at times to have that shared into the urbans. We want to make sure the money stays where the taxes are produced in the rural. We do share back with our urban,” said Kemmere, referring to the $130 million redirected from counties to smaller towns and villages.
“Let’s make sure the funding keeps on flowing. We all know the government is under extreme financial pressure and we want to make sure we are not treated any differently than anyone else. I am asking we don’t get treated any more harshly or any less than other sectors of the province.
“No body wants to lose funding, but as long as all sectors get dealt with rather equally, that is the fair process.”