The Minister of Municipal Affairs has released almost $30 million in tax revenues from ID349 (Cold Lake Air Weapons Range) to the municipal stakeholders in the funding agreement (Cold Lake, Bonnyville, M.D. of Bonnyville, and Glendon) for the 2019 budget year.
Fishing Lake and Elizabeth Metis Settlements will not be included in this funding arrangement moving forward, but will be compensated similarly for the 2019 year.
Minister Kaycee Madu told Lakeland Connect on Tuesday that this is a “one-time” arrangement for 2019 and that he will not release the 2020 funds until a regional solution from local leaders is presented that is sustainable and viable.
He said ID349 does not address the long-term structural problems for the Lakeland region.
“I would not be prepared to distribute tax revenue from ID349 in the face of the fact that some municipalities are saying that without that particular money they are not able to exist. And that creates long-term structural problems for the region. It doesn’t solve the problem.
“I think all of these municipalities need to find the political will, locally, in order to confront this problem. I am not going to use ID349 revenue as the only solution for a regional problem,” said Madu.
“The fluctuations in the oil and gas sector could come tomorrow and wipe out the entire revenue from that particular ID349. And then what happens if we do not solve that particular problem and ensure that the municipalities are viable in the long run?
“I would not be prepared to release the 2020 money until the region has come forward with a plan that is sustainable.”
Madu did not say the financial amounts each municipality was given, but did disclose that Cold Lake will get about $16 million, what they had received in 2018, and the rest will be distributed “fairly” to the other municipalities.
Previously, when the NDP changed the ID349 arrangement in 2017, Elizabeth and Fishing Lake Metis Settlements were included in the deal.
An in-camera motion from the Dec. 12, 2017, Town of Bonnyville council meeting said that the Town authorizes memorandums of understanding with the province, Fishing Lake, and Elizabeth Metis Settlements to flow through funds from ID349 to the two Metis Settlements subject to final ratification by the council.
Legally, the Ministry cannot take tax revenues from ID349 and flow them to Metis Settlements, said Madu, despite the precedent that was set before, which is why money from other sources will be sent instead for this one year.
“I have to say the Municipal Government Act doesn’t allow me as Minister to distribute money from the ID349 tax revenue to non-municipalities. So there isn’t any mechanism for me to actually take money from ID349 and give them to the two Metis Settlements,” said Madu.
“That had been done in the past. That is not grounded in law. That is a contravention of the Municipal Government Act. The Municipal Government Act says only municipalities can receive tax revenues. It doesn’t matter whether you flow directly to them or flow through another municipality.
“What is important is that at the end of the day, it’s still tax revenue. What I have done is to look for money through my department, other sources of grant money, that we can flow through to the Metis Settlements.”
Previously, Bonnyville received $3.7 million and an additional $1 million from the regional pot shared amongst the six stakeholders, the M.D. of Bonnyville received $1.2 million for road maintenance to the Improvement District (ID), Fishing Lake and Elizabeth each received $1.2 million and Glendon received $500,000.
Cold Lake and Bonnyville councils had difficulties in finalizing their 2020 budgets without knowing what money they would be receiving for last year and this year.
Cold Lake held a sustainability open house in December that highlighted the importance of this tax revenue and how the city and residents would be hurt financially if major changes were made to the arrangement.
“I do not want ID349 to be the only source of money that suspends a whole municipality to the point where I keep hearing that if anything happens to my revenue from ID349 the municipality is going to go bankrupt or handing the keys and stuff like that. I don’t think that is how we envisioned the concept of local government at the municipal level,” said Madu.
“There are real, structural, regional problems in that particular region. I want them to think about what the future is for the region and what is best for the people of the communities of the region.”
Municipalities were notified about the release of the funds on Friday.
More to follow.