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Federal infrastructure grant support delays concern Innisfail mayor

Mayor Jean Barclay concerned over lack of details from province over negotiations with federal government for a new 10-year agreement with the Canada Community-Building Fund
Aerial photo of infrastructure work on water and wastewater lines under Innisfail's 46th Avenue. There is now some nervousness with the delay of 2024 federal infrastructure funding, a delay caused by provincial concerns with details in a draft 10-year new deal with the federal government. Town of Innisfail photo

INNISFAIL – There is no clear picture yet on how much the Town of Innisfail will receive in federal infrastructure funding for 2024 as negotiations for a new 10-year agreement are still ongoing between the governments of Alberta and Canada.

And there is “concern” from the Town of Innisfail over a letter council received from Rick McIver, Alberta Municipal Affairs minister, that stated there were “several aspects” in a draft renewal agreement from the federal government that are “concerning for Alberta and for local governments.”

“The letter does not give a lot of detail, so we're not sure exactly what the issues are,” Innisfail mayor Jean Barclay told the Albertan. “Typically, we would see this funding come through mid-year, and now obviously we're not.”

The federal infrastructure monies from the Canada Community-Building Fund (CCBF) are crucially important for the Town of Innisfail, as well as for all Alberta municipalities, in light of the disappointment many have voiced with allocations from the new provincial Local Government Fiscal Framework program, the province’s main funding source for municipal infrastructure support.

In 2023, the Town of Innisfail received a $491,235 allocation from the CCBF, funds that supported $977,186 of total provincial infrastructure money from the old Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) program.

The old CCBF deal for 2024-24 expired this year on March 31, and according to McIver the Alberta and federal governments have been in active negotiations for a new deal that will cover the 2024-34 period.

“As these negotiations are ongoing, there may be delays in the 2024 program, including the notification of allocation amounts and timing of payments to local governments,” said McIver in his letter. “As discussions with the federal government continue we are working with municipal associations to ensure the Alberta government understands the perspectives of local governments.”

However, the mayor of Innisfail is not satisfied with the explanation.

“It's concerning in the fact that it's being delayed. And it's concerning to me that we're not being told exactly why it's being delayed,” said Barclay. “Like, what are the intricacies of this deal that are not favourable to the provincial government?

“And is that being shared even with Alberta Municipalities (AM) or Rural Municipalities of Alberta? I don't think so,” added Barclay. “So, right now we are somewhat in the dark about it. I think having more clarity around it would certainly help.”

The Albertan attempted to contact AM president Tyler Gandam for comment on the McIver letter but was told by AM’s communications office that a check was made with its Policy & Advocacy team.

Hope was then advanced that any negotiation challenges between the provincial and federal governments were at the cusp of being resolved.

“Alberta Municipalities has spoken with the ministry about the issue raised in minister McIver’s letter,” said Scott Lundy, AM communications manager in an email response. “We understand that a solution to the issue in question is imminent.”

However, another check was made by the Albertan to Alberta Municipal Affairs about the timelines for the delivery of federal monies to municipalities.

“We expect that Canada Community-Building Fund funding will flow to municipalities this year,” said a ministry spokesperson in an email response to the Albertan query.

In the meantime, town council discussed the McIver letter with staff at council’s regular meeting on June 24.

Erica Vickers, the town’s director of corporate services, told council she had not yet seen any details of any agreement between the Alberta and federal governments to see what changes have been made from the past 10-year deal.

She said it is around this time of year the town usually sees the funding but delivery can happen anytime after May 1 and into September and even October.

“I'm sure they'll still figure this out, and we'll have our funds before the end of summer,” said Vickers.


Johnnie Bachusky

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