More terse words have been sent in the direction of the provincial government as Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett is set to hold court with the media Friday.
Following up on the passage by town council of motions to withhold the education portion of the community’s property taxes beginning in January and calling for the release of federal infrastructure dollars, Bonnett is slated to hold a press conference at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex at 10 a.m.
“We’re holding this news conference to express our extreme disappointment with the provincial government’s treatment of rural municipalities in its grant funding processes, specifically through its handling of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP),” Bonnett stated in a press release.
“As a small municipality, we can’t afford to use our annual MSI (Municipal Sustainability Initiative) funding to build a recreation facility. We rely on that money every year to repair our roads and underground water and sewer infrastructure. Without it, our infrastructure would fall apart.”
Also in the release, Bonnett noted the province was willing to financially support Calgary’s 2026 Olympic bid, but not provide $4.5 million to Ponoka for a recreation facility that, “will be a vital economic driver.”
He added, “They appear to have shut the door on communication. We’re running out of options, which is why we have now
decided it’s time to consider taking more serious action.”
In an emailed response from the provincial government to town council’s decision to withhold the taxes, the government focuses on the financial restraints it is currently facing while touting other Alberta municipalities efforts to build infrastructure.
“With the collapse of oil prices, we have heard from Albertans the need for fiscal restraint. There are many projects each year on the unfunded capital list—including schools, highway repairs, seniors lodges and affordable housing,” the email stated.
“The federal government has provided Alberta with a stream of funding where they will pay for 40 per cent of the cost of recreation facilities. Given our fiscal constraints, we don’t want to be leaving any federal dollars on the table. Using MSI as the provincial portion allows for these important recreation centres and other facilities, like the one the Town of Ponoka is proposing, to be built. This is what other municipalities like Beaumont are doing to move their sports and recreation centre forward.
“Alberta remains the most generous funder of municipalities of all provinces in Canada.”