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  • Writer's pictureSamanntha Wright

December/20 Bearspaw Beat submission

It’s hard to believe but 2020 is actually drawing to an end. While parts of this year seemed to last for an eternity, others just flew by.

In early November, I attended the online Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) Conference. The conference still included the usual question and answer periods with Provincial Cabinet Ministers and speeches from Premier Kenney and Opposition Leader Notley.

In my last update, I mentioned that Rocky View Council seconded a resolution from Wheatland County advocating for policies and programs supporting the creation of agricultural conservation easements. I am pleased to report that the motion was accepted. Unfortunately, Rocky View’s resolution requesting Municipal Affairs to create a dispute resolution process for councillor sanction and disqualification disputes as an alternative to legal action failed.

Premier Kenney stuck to his guns reinforcing the need for red-tape reduction and for municipalities to find new ways to entice businesses and create jobs. He emphasized the need for municipalities to provide tax exemptions for oil and gas companies while acknowledging the disputes with RMA and the province’s review of the linear tax assessment model. He also noted that much of the $10 billion in infrastructure improvements are going to rural communities.

Notley criticized Kenney for his cuts to health care and their impacts on rural communities as well as the increased downloading of costs on to municipalities for items like policing.

In my opinion, the most inspiring speech came from guest speaker, Arlene Dickinson of Dragon’s Den fame. Recognizing how COVID is changing the way the world is doing business and how people are interacting, her theme was “Reinvention”.

She spoke about the need for more private and public partnerships and less of a reliance on government. She also emphasized the importance of adaptability and flexibility and how local governments should reflect current trends, such as our heavy reliance on the internet and the desire for more locally sourced goods and services.

She noted how people working from home has allowed them to re-evaluate their priorities and how many are now moving to smaller, rural communities valuing open spaces and slower paced lives. Most importantly, she asked us to reflect on how these changes could impact how we acted as leaders, suggesting they are an opportunity to get rid of some old ways of doing things and to embrace new ways. She stated that diversification was crucial for Alberta and identified alternative sectors like agri-food, agri-health and food education and distribution, sectors she has supported by raising over $100M for initiatives within those realms. It was really informative and provided some real food for thought, pun intended.

Wishing you and your family a safe, happy and healthy holidays! Merry Christmas!

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