Cold Lake Chamber concerned over recent economic news for area

The Cold Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce say they are concerned for the region’s economy as “negative economic news continues to mount,” specifically the announcement that Maple Flag will be postponed.

“This week, the Department of National Defence announced the indefinite postponement of the Exercise Maple Flag. The annual air combat exercise was an important annual economic boost to the Cold Lake Region, drawing hundreds of pilots and support staff to the community from around the world,” the press release says.

“While we understand the reasons for the postponement and support the Wing Commander and his staff in their work, this news comes on the heels of other causes for concern and in very challenging economic times,” Cold Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce President Ryan Lefebvre said. “Challenges continue to pile up and there’s no sign of good economic news on the horizon.”

The news is the latest in a number of decisions at the federal and provincial level that have challenged the region’s business community in the midst of a deep and prolonged economic downturn.

The Chamber say they are concerned that:

o Since 2012, City of Cold Lake has contested the Payment in Lieu of Taxes- or PILT- which the federal government pays to the city for the military base. The City of Cold Lake has maintained that the federal government has shorted PILT payments by about $1.8 million a year. In 2015, the City of Cold Lake won a decision at the PILT Dispute Advisory Panel in regards to the 2012 tax payment, but the federal government continues to dispute its payments for 2013 onward. The shortfall is added to Cold Lake residents’ and business community’s tax burden.

o In 2017, the Provincial Government announced a cut of about $10 million annually to the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range Agreement with the City of Cold Lake, which was created to provide for the city’s sustainability and to help the city invest in the livability of the community, in large part to assist 4 Wing with retaining personnel.

o Last week, it came to light that a significant number of jobs will be leaving the area as the Aerospace Engineering and Test Establishment would be transitioned, at least in part, to Ottawa.

“We understand that a significant amount of work needs to take place to modernize the range and bring the exercise back,” Lefebvre said.

“To date, we have not received any confirmation or timelines for this investment, nor have we received any help with the challenges our community faces. Our city has taken hit after hit, and despite our City Council’s hard work and best efforts to be heard, we are not sure the message is being received. The Cold Lake Regional Chamber of Commerce stands with the City of Cold Lake in seeking assistance for our community in these difficult economic times.”