The City of Red Deer recently gave their response to the Government of Alberta’s Throne Speech, which championed “creating jobs in a diversified economy”, “working for regular people and families” and “addressing inequality”.
Mayor Tara Veer said the biggest win for Red Deer in the Throne Speech was the inclusion of Red Deer College being granted degree-granting status.
“That is a clear win for our community in terms of advanced education opportunities in the region,” she said.
Veer mentioned that much of the actual specifics of the speech will be ironed out during the Provincial Budget process, however there are several key aspects the City is keeping an eye on including the diversification of the Alberta economy, Truth and Reconciliation, the Opioid Crisis, crime, the municipal sustainability initiative, cannabis revenue and health care.
Diversification of the oil and gas industry is of particular interest to the City according to Veer due to its direct relation to employment and housing.
“Given Red Deer’s strong connection to the oil and gas industry and the trickle-down effect that has on our housing market and directly with respect to employment, we will be watching that closely,” she said.
Veer noted the Government’s reference to affordable aboriginal housing is one the City will watch closely.
“Given affordable housing shortages in the community and the City’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, I think this is an area that will have direct potential for Red Deer,” she said.
The City’s discussions with the Province regarding the opioid crisis has consistently been around the topic of harm reduction.
“The Throne Speech did acknowledge the Four Pillars, which is consistent with Red Deer’s Drug and Alcohol Strategy. Those Four Pillars are prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement. We will look for further details about how that will roll out,” she said.
Most of the Throne Speech references to crime was regarding rural crime, and it is currently unclear whether Red Deer falls into that designation.
“We know that crime knows no boundaries and the efforts of our regional task force that we have in partnership with neighboring personalities has proven that,” she said.
Of key interest to the City, according to Veer, was the future of MSI, which was not mentioned in the speech and is scheduled to end in the fiscal year of 2017.
“Municipalities across the province rely on MSI to fund capital investment. This is an area of significant concern for us,” she said.
The Federal Government had previously promised a 75 per cent revenue share on cannabis, which will flow through the Province. This was also not mentioned in the speech and is of interest to the City.
“We will be watching the budget closely for how the Provincial Government intends to allocate that to municipalities, recognizing that the regulatory and enforcement costs will predominately fall to municipalities,” she said.
The Throne Speech did mention health care, however not specifically to the needs of Red Deer — most notably the need for expanded infrastructure and services.
“We will be watching the budget closely in terms of how the Government proposes to attend to the infrastructure and programming needs at the Red Deer Regional Hospital,” she said.