Posted on Apr 24, 2020
NDP CALLS FOR EMERGENCY FUNDING FOR MUNICIPALITIES
CALGARY -- Joe Ceci, NDP Official Opposition Critic for Municipal Affairs, is calling on the provincial government to provide immediate help to Alberta’s municipalities with a one-time doubling of its MSI transfer for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
The current Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) transfer is worth $960 million. The opposition is calling for this to be doubled to $1.92 billion, with the incremental increase to be used at the discretion of the municipalities and not bound by the usual MSI criteria.
Ceci has outlined the proposal in a letter to municipal leaders.
“Local government is in the best position to determine local priorities, and they can get this investment out the door and into the economy quickly,” said Ceci. “Cities, towns and counties could choose to create jobs by accelerating capital projects, protect the existing jobs of municipal workers, support struggling social service or arts groups, or simply keep a lid on property tax increases.”
Alberta municipalities are in serious financial peril. Revenue from property taxes, permits, licenses, gas taxes, ticket fines and transit fares are plummeting during the COVID-19 pandemic and the global energy price crash. Without provincial support, councils won’t be able to protect their local economy against job losses, service reductions, or significant property tax increases.
Ceci rejected the concept of allowing municipalities to run deficits or seek lines of credit, which was recently floated by Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu and Finance Minister Travis Toews.
“It’s a terrible idea,” Ceci said. “It costs local governments more than the province to borrow, and they have far fewer revenue streams to repay with. That’s just more pain for property taxpayers down the road, forcing councils to try and dig their way out of debt when they should be trying to rebuild their local economies.”