M.D. of Lesser Slave River Council notes

Sept. 9, 2020 meeting
Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

(Last week’s report on the Sept. 9 council meeting was unfinished due to a shortage of space. Here’s what’s left)

Agricultural Service Board
Councillor Sandra Melzer’s report on the latest meeting of the ASB included the news that no state of agricultural disaster would be declared by the M.D. Some municipalities have done this, as a result of too much moisture.
It is bad, Melzer said, but “it could be worse.”
The Veterinary Services Inc. (VSI) program has been subscribed so far to the tune of $6,000, Melzer reported. That leaves $7,500 in the pot, should anyone wish to take advantage of it. VSI subsidizes the cost of veterinary services for farmers in the M.D.

Slave Lake Airport Commission
Melzer again: A new sweeper will be purchased this fall, per the 2020 budget. The old (1988) sweeper will be put up for sale.
Letters have gone out to all affected property owners on the airport perimeter fence proposal – an item of considerable controversy over the past year or two. Councillor Robert Esau said responses to the letter so far have all been in favour.
Esau went on to say that “our budget is in trouble big time, because of lack of activity.”
“Ballpark deficit?” asked councillor Brad Pearson.
$86,000 was the figure given.

New direction in seniors’ housing?
Councillor Melzer mentioned a provincial review of affordable housing for seniors is in process and expected to be released at the end of September. She learned this and other things in a meeting with Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken. Questions being asked in the review include “Who are we helping?” and urban versus rural needs, as well as whether partnerships would help. Help from the private sector would result in “less reliance on provincial and municipal dollars,” she said.

Hammering the message home
Lobby efforts continue on every available front, when it comes to government proposals that would have a bad impact locally. The two biggies for council at the moment are the proposed changes to linear property assessment and the closure of the Boreal Centre for Bird Conservation for six months of the year. For example:
“Tyler Warman and I talked to the chief of staff for Jason Nixon (Minister of Environment and Parks),” said reeve Murray Kerik. “She didn’t know about it (the BCBC issue). She said it sounded totally wrong.”
Kerik said he and Warman were also hoping to meet soon with the new Minister of Municipal Affairs, Tracy Allard, who has walked from the back benches into a hornets’ nest, more or less.
“She was in a meeting in Grande Prairie and apparently it got pretty loud,” Kerik said. At the meeting were representatives of various municipalities in the region. Their recommendation to her and her government, Kerik said, was to “throw all four options out, sit down with us and work something out.”
What has been proposed, he continued, is stuff worked out between the government and oil companies, with little or no input from municipalities.
“Even the small oil companies are losers in this game,” added councillor Robert Esau.

Topics for the tri-council
Council’s discussion veered into what topics might be good to bring up in the regional tri-council forum. That’s the one that involves the Sawridge First Nation, M.D. of Lesser Slave River and Town of Slave Lake. Asked for suggestions, CAO Allan Winarski brought in something from right out of left field.
“Why is the Aga Khan investing in Northern Lakes College in Peerless Lake?” he said, taking all of council by surprise. “Some kind of partnership? When you’ve got donations like that, you have to wonder what’s going on.”
Winarski did not elaborate; nor did any councillors ask any follow-up questions or make any comments.
Winarski wasn’t finished with the eccentric offerings. Commenting in light of the anticipated steep loss in municipal tax revenue due to the province giving oil companies a break: “In the early 1950s, in northern Alberta there was a movement to join B.C. You might have a better chance of getting your resources to market….”
“Maybe we should join Saskatchewan,” offered Kerik, although probably not very seriously.
Winarski: “It never hurts to rattle a little bit, because they’re not doing anything for you now.” He went on to mention how smooth some southern Alberta highways are, having received new asphalt when they didn’t really need it, “so Calgarians can get to their vacation properties in B.C.”
Councillor Brad Pearson’s suggestion was to hand secondary roads back to the province.

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