The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) conference gets underway Wednesday in Calgary, the event serves as a huge networking opportunity for Alberta Municipalities and their stakeholders. Bonnyville’s Mayor Gene Sobolewski says one of the town’s main priorities is, “dialogue with the Ministers and officials in the provincial government.” There are various opportunities for the Mayor and town council, along with town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mark Powers to engage with provincial powers that be at the conference.
At the conference there are break-away sessions and one-on-one opportunities with Ministers, explains Mayor Sobolewski, “there’s a number of sessions and they cover a broad range of current legislation, current practices, and current policies, and things of this nature. Then there’s dialogue and networking with other municipalities in the break-out sessions, where you’re all talking about a specific issue. You get to find out what others are doing and what issues others are facing, and finding common ground, particularly if others have resolved their issues.”
There are some official duties at the conference as well, explains Mayor Sobolewski, “some of the duties required to elect your officials to represent your municipalities at the AUMA and policies and resolutions, we vote them in.”
There are a few key topics the mayor hopes to bring to the spotlight at the conference; including the water line, hospital-ambulance issues and infrastructure, such as highway 28. “Most of the things I’m going to be doing is meeting with Ministers,” explains the Mayor, “we’ve got a number of scheduled meetings with different ministries and ministers.” At these meetings the mayor will be joined by town council, “we’re going to be talking about pretty-much everything we’ve brought up in council. [That includes] transportation, main street, and the waterline. I’m going to be meeting with Sarah Hoffman [Alberta’s Health Minister] we’ll be talking about some of the issues facing us with regards to EMS Dispatch and the critical nature of how undersized our facility is. Going to be incredibly busy.”
Sobolewski confirms the group will be meeting with the Deputy Minister of Transportation, Greg Bass, at that meeting the waterline and Water For Life Program will be the main topic of discussion. The Mayor says he’s hopeful the meeting with the Deputy Minister will bring a better resolve to the issue than what we’ve seen to date.
The group hopes to meet with Deron Bilous, Minister of Municipal Affairs to get some more information and background on the proposed changes to the Municipal Government Act (MGA). The Minister was in Cold Lake late last week and hinted that he would be revealing some of the changes to the act at the AUMA conference.
Sobolewski suspects the government will keep the budget under tight guard until October and hope to have an opportunity to meet with Joe Ceci, Minister of Finance. “Basically, what’s happening right now, is one has to believe that they’re busy preparing documents and reviewing budgets. So, the purpose for discussions is to prioritize and to highlight specific projects and specific needs to ensure that the Minister is aware of cancellation of funding would have a drastic effect on our area.”
“Say for example, the Water for Life Program, over the last three budget cycles it has continued to be eroded and the impact it’s having to municipalities. There was a direct correlation between our infrastructure debt as a result.”
The main goal for the conference is for the Mayor, Councillors and CAO to get in front of the ministers, “and to make an impression so we’re successful in moving forward.”