Mayor of Cold Lake, Craig Copeland, along with Councillors Vicky Lefebvre and Kelvin Plain, attended the AUMA conference in Calgary last Wednesday through Friday. The City was also represented by Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Kevin Nayoga and Strategic Initiatives Manager, Ander Serba. At the conference the City was able to get many of the issues that affect the region to the attention of the provincial Ministers.
Mayor Copeland explains the group first met with Minister of Municipal Affairs, Deron Bilous, regarding the transition of ID-349, the management of the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range. That meeting was one of many to come and successful, says Copeland.
The group wasn’t able to meet with any other Ministers one-on-one, however the Energy Minister, Margaret McCuaig-Boyd, did field a question posed by Mayor Copeland. During the bullpit session, a group style Q&A forum, Mayor Copeland asked the Minister a question regarding Alberta’s pipeline status, “I asked the Minister where she’s at on that file. I stressed the importance of getting a pipeline, or two, out of Alberta is key. I gave the Minister a snapshot of the local economy and told the Minister, in my opinion, that the oilfield up here is very environmental sound and follows best practices. My question was where she was at on trying to get a pipeline out of Alberta.”
Mayor Copeland says the response he got gave him some hope that a pipeline to transfer Alberta oil out of the province and perhaps out of the country may be a reality someday. “She basically said that she’s speaking with people across Canada to have the ability to open a pipeline across different provinces. She said she’s working on the file.” Mayor Copeland explains he’s satisfied with the Minister’s response, though he did express some disappointment to the Minister, “one thing I did say to her is I was disappointed that the oil royalty review task force isn’t having a public forum in The Lakeland area. They’re in Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, Edmonton and Calgary, yet they left this side out.”
Copeland says the Northeast is a key player in the oil industry, “you consider Lac La Biche, Cold Lake, Lloydminster, and Bonnyville. It’s kinda strange that half a million or more barrels of oil wouldn’t be considered by the group. I shared my disappointment as a Mayor of a major oil town.”
Mayor Copeland was not able to ask a question of the Health Minister, Sarah Hoffman, due to the question being pulled from his mouth, “just before the bullpit session a senior bureaucrat came up to me and said that they are looking at the ambulance situation in rural Alberta. They took my question before I was able to ask it.” The Mayor reiterated his point to the senior bureaucrat that having no ambulance in the City of Cold Lake is “unacceptable.”
“We’ve been saying it for years. Is it a dispatch problem? Possibly. But for $100 you can dispatch the fourth ambulance in the City. It seems like a relatively very cheap fix.” Mayor Copeland expects more meeting with Alberta Health Services to come and is remaining skeptical, “I’ve heard it before, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. At least they know we’re not happy.” The Mayor says the situation is dire, “it’s tragic at times that the City of Cold Lake, and other rural communities, are without an ambulance for an extended period of time.”
Mayor Copeland explains one of the main reasons for municipalities to attend the AUMA is to network, “we met a ton of mayors and councillors.” “What was refreshing at this AUMA is the number of MLAs that were in attendance, all the parties had their MLAs there. Certainly, the NDPs had their MLAs there and I met a lot of newly elected MLAs.” Meeting the MLAs gave Mayor Copeland a stronger confidence in the NDP government.
The conference as a whole, says the Mayor, “was the best AUMA that we’ve ever been to. The speakers were excellent. It’s building relationships.” The government is new, explains Copeland, “we’re starting from scratch, the Ministers did an excellent job fielding questions at the bullpit sessions. The Premiere delivered a very good speech on Thursday, it was well done.” Copeland says of the new government, “they have a different style and a different approach. It’s your job as the Mayor and Council to adapt and to work with the government in power.”