The 2023 Alberta Municipalities (ABMunis) Conference slated to begin next week in Edmonton will feature three resolutions sponsored by the City. These resolutions were summarized and presented to city council on Monday. 

Council voted to endorse staff recommendations on the 2023 ABMunis resolutions as presented to them during the meeting.

The resolutions include enhanced funding for the Rent Assistance and Temporary Rent Assistance Benefits, provincial funding for growing municipalities, as well as the review of the vehicle collision reporting damage threshold.

Council also decided to support seconding the provincial lending rates to municipalities, a resolution from the City of St. Albert, as well as capital budget disclosures that negatively impact the procurement process, a resolution submitted by the Town of Okotoks. 

In total, there are 25 resolutions that have been submitted by municipalities across the province. These resolutions will be debated and discussed by various municipal leaders at the conference. 

Leona Esau and Megan Stewart of the Chief Administrative Officer's (CAO) office at the City presented the overview to council, underlining that if council holds discussions prior to the conference, this allows council members who may not be attending the conference to weigh in on the resolutions, should amendments be needed.

"Each Council member who attends the convention is provided with the opportunity to vote. When consensus is not reached at the Council level, individual votes may cancel one another out. Effectively leaving the municipality in a neutral position on potentially important and impactful issues," city documents explained.

The resolution for rental assistance asks the province, among other things to: establish predictable, long-term rent assistance funding to meet the needs of all low-income Albertans, increase awareness of rent assistance programs and simplify the application process.

With regard to the resolution on provincial funding for growing municipalities, Esau noted that Airdrie is one of the fastest-growing cities in the province. She said that from 2016 to 2022, 61 Alberta municipalities recorded a growth rate of more than 10 per cent over that time period.

"High growth rates encouraged by the provinces Alberta's Calling campaign require large infrastructure investments to ensure community viability... Coupled with high-cost escalations, and a proposed 37 per cent decrease in the amount of capital funding available now in charter municipalities, [this] is placing a tremendous burden on those municipalities absorbing the population growth."

The resolution the Airdrie is bringing forth states that they would like the province to, 'actively partner with municipalities absorbing the population growth required to support a vibrant, diverse and thriving provincial economy through the creation of a dedicated funding program to support the capital investment pressures of growth.'

The third resolution put forth by the City calls on the province to work with stakeholders to review the $2,000 collision reporting damage threshold in order to reflect current repair costs while reducing red tape.

"In Alberta, all vehicles involved in a vehicle collision where damages are over $2,000 require a damage sticker before repairs can begin and it doesn't take a lot to reach $2,000. On average, we're seeing that vehicle repairs in personal or property damage-only collisions are estimated over $9,000," Esau said. "Across the province last year over 95,000 property damage only - those are collisions with no injuries - occurred. Over 3000 of those were reported to Airdrie RCMP. The demand on our RCMP officers and support staff to manage collision reporting is significant."

Other notable resolutions that will be discussed during the conference next week include Rural Access to Supports for Addictions, Homelessness and Mental Health, sponsored by the Town of Grimshaw and the Town of Peace River, E-Scooters and Modernizing the Alberta Traffic Safety Act for Personal Use, sponsored by  The City of Calgary and The City of Edmonton, as well as Provincial funding for Medical First Response (MFR), sponsored by the city of Grande Prairie, the City of Medicine Hat, Town of Sexsmith, and the City of Wetaskiwin. City documents show that thus far Airdrie is supporting all of the 25 resolutions that are to be presented. 

Councillor Spearman asked about how the resolution regarding funding medical first response might affect Airdrie.

"'I'm just not clear on how that affects Airdrie; if it affects Airdrie, or are we leaving money on the table and that's why we're in alignment with this?" she asked.

Kevin Weinberger, Director of Community Growth and Protective Services, clarified that it may have a potential financial impact on the city.

"Typically, for every call for service in a medical first response area, we could potentially bill an amount. Right now, I believe the amendment was based on Municipal Affairs dollars coming to us; we attend [an] Alberta transportation event on a named highway where we bill back now anywhere from $205 to $750, depending on the service we provide. We don't know what that amount be [as that] would be part of the advocacy of this resolution."

Councillor Spearman added that The City of Red Deer has been working on the MFR program, asking how Airdrie differs from Red Deer.

"Red Deer wouldn't be classified as an MFR program because they're contracted by Alberta Health Services. They provide a different level of service based on the number of ambulances that they actually provide service to. Their staff run the ambulances, which would be different than our MFR program," Director Weinberged replied.

Mayor Brown also asked why Airdrie doesn't have the system Red Deer does as well.

"If I go back to the feasibility study we did back in 2012, with rising call volumes, the tax-funded portion of that worked out to roughly $4 million on top of what we received back from Alberta Health Services as a return on investment," the director added. "It would be a better higher level of service. Again, we can guarantee that today, depending on where your ambulances are. One of the challenges that council faced early on in the transition from a municipal to provincial [model] was dealing with [the fact that] you don't control where these ambulances go."

Mayor Brown noted that this topic was discussed in council previously.

"It never seemed to get where we needed to go with any kind of certainty. We're not sure that it's actually going to impact the system that currently exists, because there'll be following the provincial versus municipal direction. We can certainly talk about this during the budget."

Both Mayor Peter Brown, Councillor Tina Petrow, and Councillor Heather Spearman, will be attending the 2023 ABMunis Convention. The Mayor and councillors will be participating in the resolutions session on Thursday, September 28.

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