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Sunday , 1 August 2021

ID 349 uncertainty leaves budgeting up in the air for region’s municipalities

Budget discussions for the Lakeland’s municipalities are upcoming for the 2020 year, but Bonnyville, Cold Lake and the M.D. of Bonnyville will not be able to dig in until the province decides the future of ID 349 funding.

With a decision expected sometime soon, these towns and cities have submitted their suggestions for how the money from the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range should be divided.

But until they know the numbers, tens of millions of dollars in total, it makes budgeting more challenging.

“I expect for us will probably meet in November to strategize on the budget,” said Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland.

“I’m optimistic that the Minister is going to make a decision that’s going to be for the betterment of the region. The city council sent to the Minister three proposals,” he said.

“We certainly have focused on the betterment of the region.”

On Tuesday’s town council meeting, Bonnyville council looked at prioritizing projects they have in the works in case funding is cut.

“As the Town, we have to look at that because we can’t incorporate that ID 349 money into our budget for next year,” said Deputy Mayor Elisa Brosseau.

“We need to start looking at potentially some of the capital projects that we could either defer or postpone and so that was what our conversation was about last night.”

M.D. of Bonnyville Reeve Greg Sawchuk took a different approach and brings up the point that Lac La Biche, currently being left out of the ID 349 conversation with the Minister of Municipal Affairs (Glendon, Fishing Lake Metis Settlement, Elizabeth Metis Settlement) might have justification for some of the funds.

“I’ve said that as far as ID 349 goes, Lac La Biche and the M.D. are the only municipalities that provide a service to ID 349. We provide the roads and that the infrastructure that allows people to make it there and for that revenue to come out,” said Sawchuk.

He said the M.D. is using the opportunity to develop relationships that weren’t as strong in the past.

Plus, they don’t want to see the money leave the region because neighbours can’t get along.

“The province right now are in a deficit. They’re looking for ways to raise money. What better place to raise money than from ID 349, which is oil and gas revenue. It could very easily be pulled back to Edmonton. Be sent out to other counties, municipalities that have been hit by the oil and gas downfall, especially the gas side, right? There are a number of counties that have been hit by that. We’ve tried to make everybody aware of that, that this is a real, real possibility.

“Nobody’s going to be happy with the end result. No matter what there are going to be parties that don’t feel as though they’ve got enough and some may get more than they deserve. But for us, all we’re looking for out of ID 349 is to have our costs met. We have the 50 kilometers of road which services the ID, and all of the feeder roads. So we paved that whole piece there last year We just want to get the cost covered for maintenance, that paving covered. Then let’s get the rest. But let’s keep it in the region in the municipality.”

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.