Answer: The 2012-2012 Alberta budget represents only a 1.2% increase over 2011-2012’s budget, when the expected combined inflation and population growth rate is 3.5%. This small increase is further offset by the losses to municipal infrastructure and transportation grants/programs. The Alberta NDP would ensure that funding for municipal affairs is indexed, stable, and sustainable, so as to enhance, not diminish, the fiscal capacity of Alberta’s municipalities.
Secondly, an NDP government would support municipalities’ efforts to occupy the entire property tax and would be prepared to consider additional sources of revenue for municipalities which are appropriate to their responsibilities.
Thirdly, Alberta collects some of the lowest oil royalties in the world, but 30% of provincial operating budget comes from royalty revenue. Increased royalty revenues are necessary to invest in the future and that includes investing in infrastructure. A portion of increased royalty revenue should be made available to municipalities for infrastructure rehabilitation and future growth.
The Alberta NDP would consider fuel tax revenue to support transportation initiatives as well.
Question: What are your plans for long-range, sustainable, predictable capital funding for the large cities?
Answer: The Alberta NDP is a strong proponent of greater revenue sharing with municipalities. To maintain viability, municipalities require sustainable funding. Where grants are used, the province must commit to both the timeframe and amount of money in the program so municipalities can properly plan infrastructure development. An NDP government would ensure that previous commitments are also fulfilled, such as GreenTRIP and MSI commitment. When funds are committed for a program or purpose they must be delivered and not talked about year after year but never provided.
Question: Specifically, what sources of revenue are you willing to share with Calgary and Edmonton?
Answer: The province needs to work out an acceptable agreement of revenue sharing with the municipal governments, who deliver many critical services directly to the public.
An Alberta NDP government would consider vacating property taxes and leaving that entire revenue to municipalities. However, the Alberta NDP believes that the property tax is not always the most suitable or sufficient to meet the needs of modern cities. Property tax was designed originally for services to properties; yet the services that municipalities are called upon to provide are difficult to operate and fund just based on the property tax. This is why there would need to be additional sources of funding. As mentioned, revenue from increased royalties could be used, in part, for municipal capital projects. The Alberta NDP would also consider fuel tax revenue to support transportation primarily.
Question: What are your plans for the education portion of the property tax?
Answer: An NDP government would support municipalities’ efforts to occupy the entire property tax.
Question: What are your thoughts on the future of existing infrastructure programs, including the MSI?
Answer: MSI has missed its funding commitment year after year. An Alberta NDP government would ensure that the original commitment of $11.3 billion would be granted within ten years and would look for other ways to enhance the MSI. For example, we could do so by setting aside a lump sum amount. Municipalities would then be able to decide how to use the money. By 2017, when MSI would need to be continued or replaced, the NDP would have worked in partnership with municipalities to develop an improved sustainable funding commitment.
The Municipal Water Wastewater Program/Water for life was reduced this year by $90.5 million, a reduction of 35%. Municipalities are responsible for providing water services for 90% of Albertans and this has become increasingly difficult due to with an aging distribution system that is increasingly expensive to operate. This puts municipalities in a difficult position.
If one considers the loss of the AMIP, decreased funding for the Water for Life, for GreenTRIP, and the Canada Alberta Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund, in addition to decreases in affordable housing supports, it is clear that provincial funding for municipal infrastructure is on the decline.
The Alberta NDP would work with municipalities to ensure that no further cuts hurt the ability for municipalities to provide for a growing population.
Alberta's NDP official website - albertandp.ca