The regional committee of six municipalities jointly agreeing on regional projects with a $6 million pool of money from the ID-349 Cold Lake Air Weapons Range met last Monday.
Although the discussions between Cold Lake, Bonnyville, M.D. of Bonnyville, Glendon, Fishing Lake Metis settlement and Elizabeth Metis settlement in that meeting are officially confidential – that may change soon.
Reeve Greg Sawchuk says the M.D. appealed to the deputy minister of municipal affairs for these conversations to be in the open because ID-349 involves tax money.
“What they were saying was that anything that was said in these meetings could not go public. Well, we’re talking about tax dollars and that cannot be confidential. You have to be able to get back out there in the public and say actually what was talking about. You can’t have secret meetings under the MGA, once again,” said Sawchuk.
“So we fought for removing that confidentiality and we were backed up by the City of Cold Lake, realizing that this was wrong. That has gone back to the minister, so we hope he recognizes that fact, and allows us to speak openly in these conversations,” he said.
Mayor Craig Copeland confirmed in this meeting that he voted alongside the M.D. of Bonnyville during this meeting.
Sawchuk continues saying that the M.D. has an issue with how the tax money will be allocated.
“What is happening with this committee, and this is where the M.D. has an issue, is that now this tax assessment has to be sent through a municipality onto the [Metis] settlements because the settlements are not included as a recipient in the MGA.
“As far as the M.D. is concerned, and the other counties I spoke to at RMA, this is a very slippery slope and we’re actually taking tax assessment and actually sending it to a settlement that doesn’t assess taxes on land. Is it opening up all counties, municipalities, to an ask from the settlements? It’s very concerning… so this committee was put together to try and pick projects that are truly regional.”
It is not clear at this time due to the confidential nature of the meeting what municipality, whether it’s the regional committee together, an individual municipality, or the province who is sending tax revenue to the Metis settlements.
In the past, Metis settlements had only received funding from the provincial and federal governments.
The Mayor of Bonnyville, Gene Sobolewski said the following during his committee reports on town council at Tuesday, Nov. 27:
“We had our ID349 meeting with the elected officials. It was long. There was a lot of dialogue. But in the end I would like to commend each and every leader that was there: the City of Cold Lake, MD of Bonnyville, the two Metis settlements and Glendon, for being able to work together collaboratively to make a recommendation to the minister in probably this region of about $6 million.
“We were able to unanimously make a motion to provide a recommendation to the minister. I’m very proud by that fact and we’ll see where it goes and again, I’d like to commend each and every attendee that was there for showing the leadership, advocating for their community, but also recognizing a bigger play and a bigger picture that we faced,” said Sobolewski.
It is not known when the deputy minister will decide if these meetings will become non-confidential.
After the ID-349 agreement was restructured in 2017, a regional committee was established to come up with ideas to enhance the region.
The M.D. is receiving $1.2 million a year.
The Town of Bonnyville is receiving roughly $4 million a year from ID-349.
The City of Cold Lake was receiving $25 million before the new agreement, and now they’re getting $16 million.
Fishing Lake and Elizabeth Metis Settlements will receive $1.2 million a year.
The village of Glendon will receive close to $500,000 per year as part of the new ID-349 funding formula.