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Last updateFri, 18 Sep 2020 8am

County leaders meet with Minister to discuss linear assessments

 

Reeve of Starland County Steve Wannstrom was one of 17 county representatives at a meeting with the new Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracy Allard in Stettler to discuss the linear tax assessment review.
The review has been controversial and many rural municipalities are poised to have to substantially raise taxes to make up a shortfall with the reduction of linear assessments. For Starland, this could mean losing nearly 40 per cent of its operating revenue.
“She (Allard) listened, I don’t know if she heard 100 per cent,” said Wannstorm. “I will give her the benefit of the doubt. I appreciate the fact that she actually came out to hear us.”
“It was a pretty good meeting, people made it pretty clear where we stand.”
Allard said in a Facebook post following the meeting, “I recognize the importance of this issue and will continue to travel our province, meet with our local leaders, and hear their thoughts and concerns.”
Under the review, there were four proposed scenarios that could be implemented. Wannstrom said she took the fourth possible scenario off the table, which would see Starland’s County’s revenue reduced by an estimated $3.1 million. He said scenarios 1-3 are still very damaging.
“That didn’t give us great comfort,” he said.
According to an information sheet from Starland County using a mixed-use farm with 17 quarters (some leased grazing) and a residence with a total assessment of $615,000 as an example. Under current taxation, this farmer would pay $5,843.34. Under the scenarios listed by the province, this farmer would be paying anywhere between $10,000 and $7,000 more per year.
Wannstrom said he appreciated there was support at the meeting from leaders of towns and villages.
Starland County passed its budget earlier this year with several reductions, including reductions to its full time and seasonal staff. The county also suspended its road construction and bridge repair programs. Starland has 122 bridges. Administration was able to find about $4 million in savings.
“We’re just getting by, we can’t really sustain any more cuts to those numbers because we are not moving forward, we are just idle,” he said. ”We can’t cut much more.”
One issue he says that has been overlooked in these discussions is there are no mechanisms in place that compel resource operators to pay taxes. Starland was put in a difficult situation when Trident Exploration ceased operations, failing to cover its tax bill for two years.
“We did address it with the new minister. ‘You need to make sure that these guys pay their taxes to do business in Alberta,’” he said. “We are not even a creditor in the oil and gas industry.”
He is grateful for the work of MLA Nate Horner.
“My opinion is he is trying very hard, he has been organizing meetings and has been in contact with me and council… he’s making an effort.”


New ministry could impact local tourism, agriculture, and energy sectors

Minister Schweitzer headandshoulders

Premier Jason Kenney has appointed the Honourable Doug Schweitzer to the newly-created Ministry of Jobs, Economy and Innovation on August 25 as part of the Premier’s Cabinet shuffle.
In his role as Minister of Jobs, Economy and Innovation, Schweitzer will guide Alberta through the economic uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic by focusing on the agriculture, tourism, natural gas, and energy industries.
“We’re taking a look at the strong foundation of our economy here in Alberta as we come out of the pandemic,” Minister Schweitzer told the Mail. “Where are the areas we can grow quickly? Where are the areas we can get back to work?”
Minister Schweitzer recently visited Drumheller on a personal vacation with his family, enjoying the unique landscape and local tourist attractions with his daughters; having visited the area, he understands the local impact felt by these industries.
To ensure the future of the energy industry, Minister Schweitzer will be working closely with both Minister of Energy Sonya Savage, Associate Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity Dale Nally, and the newly created Invest Alberta Corporation.
Invest Alberta will draw international markets to the province and promote Alberta as the “most responsible place to develop natural resources.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges for the province’s workforce, it has provided new opportunities as well.
“People are working from their kitchen tables, and businesses are able to operate that way,” Schweitzer said. This shift is allowing Albertans to live where they want while still being able to perform jobs which previously may have forced them to live in larger city centres such as Calgary or Edmonton.
Rural Albertans often struggle with reliable, high-speed internet and Minister Schweitzer plans to work with Minister of Service Alberta Nate Glubish to expand broadband services in these areas to provide “equality of opportunity” for current and future generations of Albertans.
Current international travel restrictions have impacted the tourism industry, with many Albertans travelling much closer to home rather than abroad, and Minister Schweitzer has plans to help relaunch the industry.
“More and more people are travelling locally; more and more people are buying RVs,” Minister Schweitzer said. “So how do we build on that and make sure people spend their tourism dollars here in the province?”
A tourism strategy, which will span a decade, is being developed with partnership from Travel Alberta to help grow the sector. Schweitzer said the current plan involves a “multi-pronged approach” which will include both short-term plans to help Alberta’s tourism industry through the pandemic. Longer term plans will bring back the international tourism market to the province once travel bans and restrictions are lifted.
Schweitzer will work closely with Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner.
“He’s a key member of our caucus and a true advocate for rural Alberta, and you’ll see a lot of the detailed work in our agricultural strategy he’s had a lot of feedback in,” Schweitzer said.

Terrapins win Stettler match up

Terrapins

The Peewee Terrapins football team had a busy season practicing and last Saturday they had the chance to put their skills into play versus Stettler.
The Terrapins have had a modified training regime because of COVID-19. Due to the pandemic, the league cancelled its season. The terrapins have however been training all summer, learning the game.
Coach Brad Iverson explains rules state two teams are able to form a cohort and are able to play, so long as there are no more than 50 people between the two teams.
This allowed the Terrapins to cohort with the Stettler Panthers and on Saturday, September 12, the Terrapins travelled to Stettler to play in a nine a side match.
It was an exciting high scoring game. The Panthers were leading in the fourth quarter, when Chase Mackey scored on the final play of the game, winning 36-34.
Coach Iverson is assisted with coaching by Jason Rasmussen and recent Drumheller Titan alumni Ethan Duncalf and Jackson Upton. He says they have a young team who are excited to learn the game.
“They are like sponges, they have come along very well,” Iverson said.
He says they will be wrapping up the season towards the end of September.
Before that, the Terrapins will be hosting the Stettler Panthers on Friday, September 18 at 6 p.m. at the DVSS field.


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