The new Minister of Municipal Affairs says a decision on changing the way oil well and pipelines are assessed, which could affect the revenues of rural municipalities, is on pause.
During a visit to Vermilion, Minister Tracy Allard met with Mayor Caroline McAuley and Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright MLA Garth Rowswell and twenty other local officials to discuss the oil and gas assessment review model.
The M.D. of Bonnyville, County of St. Paul, Lac La Biche County, and Vermilion River County have all been vocal, saying if the assessed values of this equipment are changed as suggested, they would have to ratchet up property taxes or cut services.
“This piece was put on pause because I made a commitment to municipalities, and I believe we have a responsibility to understand the issue at heart,” Allard said.
“I wanted to hear their perspectives. For me, it was really important to re-establish relationships before we move ahead with any changes.
“The education requisition, police funding, and Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework can all be impacted as a result of the Assessment Model Review,” she said.
Allard has been busy since moving into the role left which was left behind Kaycee Madu, named Minister of Justice on August 25.
For the past several months, an assessment committee comprised of energy leaders, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, and municipal advocacy groups are updating how some oil and gas properties will be valued provincewide to address financial concerns from the energy industry.
The M.D. of Bonnyville estimated that of four potential scenarios, their loss in annual revenue could be as high as 16 per cent or $13.7 million, while Lac La Biche County reported a potential loss of $6 million. Vermilion River County anticipated as high as a 109 per cent mill rate increase to offset the loss in industry taxes.
Allard said she’s met with 60 per cent of the province’s municipalities in the past three weeks, with the oil assessment review a consistent topics.
Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA Dave Hanson said on Monday there will be more discussion.
“She has promised and guaranteed that there would be more consultation with the municipalities who a lot of them feel rightly or wrongly, that they weren’t consulted properly, and that this is more of an industry-driven decision.
“So we’re going to make sure that that they get heard and I think that Minister Allard will definitely take into consideration. Nothing’s written in stone yet and I think she’s gonna make the right decision.”
With files from Angela Mouly.