Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Alberta's New Brand

For those who have not heard here is the story from the BBC regarding the UK beach used to promote Alberta

Word has it that they will be sending a team of photographers over to Switzerland shortly to get some great Mountain shots for their winter campaign.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Petition fails in the Crowsnest Pass

Well the results are in the petition to Municipal Affairs failed, 1150 valid signatures were required the Representative from the "Citizens to save the Crowsnest Pass" claimed they had 1201 signatures so somewhere between 51 or more signatures were determined to be invalid.

Will we ever know how many signatures for sure were thrown out? No the ministry only rules wether the petition was valid or invalid. So in theory there is somewhere between one and 1149 valid signatures on the petition, I'm sure either side of this debate will argue in the direction that works for them.

Some questions that were asked of myself regarding this petition, my answers are purely my opinion.

What started this petition? Some very vocal members of the public who disagree with the position of the majority of council.

Who was behind the petition? A group called the "Citizens to save the Crowsnest Pass"

If these people were so concerned why did they not run in the last election?
Maybe they did, or maybe they are laying the ground work for the next election

Did I believe that 20% of the taxpayers felt council was heading in the wrong direction?
No and obviously neither did the Minister of Municipal Affairs

Did I believe that some people felt they were misled into signing the petition? told that to clean up the river run mess, or to save the Blairmore arena they should sign the petition for example?
I have a tough time believing those statements that would be dishonest and misleading!

Should council be concerned about a large group of taxpayers signing a petition?
Of course we should, that is why the majority of council dealt with issues that were raised by the "Citizens to save the Crowsnest Pass" and many other taxpayers.

What issues were raised by this group that the majority of council as recognized?
Corporate review, taxes last year over 11% increase this year 3.8%. We preserved our reserves by not moving forward on the Coleman Shop and yes we should be building them. Services we had some minor reductions but the vast majority of our core services remain in tact.

Was I has a councilor concerned about a municipal review? not one bit the issue here in the Crowsnest Pass is not that democracy is not working, of course its working just not the way some people would like it to be.

The other reason I was not concerned about the review, prior to this petition being started the majority of council took the position that we should have a review of the municipality, that we need to determine where the strengths and weaknesses are.

The Minister's letter stated the following:
"However, I suggest that the municipality consider engaging a third party to conduct a review of the administrative and governance processes in place. The review presents an opportunity to evaluate the municipality's strengths and identify potentials for improvement."
Does that not sound like a corporate review?

Do I respect the opinions of the people that signed that petition? of course I do 99% of those people are good people but lets move forward now, lets recognize that some people are using the tools they have at hand to promote their future political ambitions.

Elections are a great part of the democratic process, I would encourage anybody that as the interest to step forward in October of 2010.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Latest Poll Results

Should council be reviewing the community standards bylaw?

In the most one sided vote I have seen so far 92% of the people that took the time to vote felt we should. With the emergence of the Crowsnest Revitalization report, and the new Ad hoc committee I definitely feel this issue is going to receive some attention.

One item brought up several times in the revitalization report was making the community more appealing to the eye.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Crowsnest Revitalization Initiative

On Tuesday April 14 Shane Stewart Representative of a group of fifteen concerned citizens from many different parts of the community, presented to council a report put together by themselves labeled the "Crowsnest Revitalization Initiative" a blueprint for a Sustainable Community through Local Collaboration.

A summary of the report was provided with the complete package coming to council shortly, some highlights of the report:

"A call to action"
85% of the CNP tax base is generated from residential taxes
The population of the CNP has declined 8.2% between 2001 and 2006
During the same period the Province of Alberta grew 10.6%
We have the eldest average aged community in Alberta at 48
34.6% of all local households earn less than $25,000 per annum.

"Goals and Objectives"
Provide employment opportunities
Complete Comprehensive tourism plan
Increase small business where there are some service gaps
Develop Historical attractions
Revitalize our image, look and perception
Engender community pride and unity
Focus on community enhancement projects

CNP is not sustainable in its current form
Ratepayers must be apprised of the seriousness of the situation
Refer CRI study to the Ad Hoc Committee for Refinement
Council should form a Tourism Task force as soon as possible
Community must invest in itself through Marketing- i.e. Branding and New Logo
Undertake a Coordinated effort to Clean up the community
Executive search for an Economic Development Officer as soon as possible
The Committee is Not in Favour of a Formal park but For Responsible Conservation and Controlled use of Crown Lands

In conjunction with this presentation the Ad Hoc Committee also had its first meeting last week.

The above was certainly a good start to the process and hopefully everybody will seize the opportunity to move this community forward.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Good News for the Crowsnest Pass from Teck today

Teck today announces Bridge and Term Loan Extension – US$4.4 Billion of 2009 Payments Deferred.
With all the economic doom and gloom coming out right now, its great to get some good news.
Even though Tecks problems are not over its sounds like this deal buys them some time and gives them a chance.
They now only have to come up with $1.9 billion by the end of October, and have three years to settle the rest of their debt.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Municipal Development Plan in the Crowsnest Pass

Over the last couple of weeks I have been criticized a number of times for not supporting a new Municipal Development Plan.

The present plan is indeed out dated, the population of the Crowsnest Pass has changed significantly over the last ten years. The public deserves to have their input in to a new plan. I agree with all of those statements, so why did I not support proceeding with a new Municipal Development Plan this year? For the following reasons:

First of all the process is expensive (minimum of $50,000 I've been told by politicians in other municipalities that its probably closer to $100,000), its timely would probably take 6-12 months.

I recognize that the time and money need to be spent, but not now not until the Alberta Government decides where it is going with its regional plans under the Land Use Framework.
The Crowsnest Pass could come up with a plan that does not conform with the Land Use framework and all that time and money would be for nothing.

Take the time to read the Land Use Framework Plan the link is on the left hand side of the blog and below.

I will point out some areas to make my point:

Strategy 2 (Page 7)
"The Secretariat will develop regional plans in conjunction with government departments and Regional Advisory Councils. Final decisions on regional plans rests with Cabinet"

Are regional plans in place? have they been accepted by cabinet? No and No.

Strategy 3 (Page 7)

" A cumulative effects management approach will be used in regional plans to manage the combined impacts of existing and new activities within the region"

Within the region a cumulative effects approach will be used, once again the regional plan needs to be in place to see how we fit within it.

Provincial Leadership (Page 19)

"The Land Use Framework leaves final decision making authority with the same local officials who currently exercise it. However in the future; these decisions will have to be consistent with regional plans"

How can we be consistent with the regional plan until it is in place?

Strategy 1 (Page 19)

"Municipalities and provincial government departments will be required to comply with regional plans in their decision making"

How can our MDP conform with the regional plan until it is in place?

Local Planning (Page 26)

"However in the face of increasing pressures and conflicts the Government of Alberta needs to ensure that provincial interests are addressed at a local scale"

Would our plan conform with provincial interests? we do not know they have not told us what they are.

Municipal Planning (Page 26)

"Municipalities will be required to ensure their plans and decisions are consistent with regional plans"

We will not know the regional plan until sometime in 2010

Municipalities will;

"Prepare context statements outlining how their MDP's will align with and address provincial directions stated in regional plans, and amend municipal planning documents to adopt and align with regional planning directions"

How can we do the above without the regional plan?

Appeal Mechanisms (Page 27)

"Decision making bodies will be required to comply with regional plans and if any regional plan compliance issues arise, they will be resolved in existing review and appeal systems"

then it goes on to make the following statement;

"Because they are approved by Cabinet, regional plans are government policies and cannot be appealed"

So if you put a MDP in places that does not conform with the regional plan you do not even have the ability to appeal the regional plan.

On Page 47 the Land Use Framework clearly states that the regional plan for our area will be completed in 2010, why would anybody take the risk with taxpayers money of putting together a MDP prior to that?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Did you know? Canada's Debt

As of today Canada's debt is over $460 Billion dollars, thats a big number!
It works out to $13733 for every man, woman and child.
And its growing by $93 million per day or $1069 per second.
Its like having a credit card that never gets paid off, the balance just gets larger and larger!

Under Interesting Blogs check out the Canada Debt, see what we has a nation owe.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wow! we finally have a Budget in the Crowsnest Pass

Well its finally here the Crowsnest Pass Budget/Millrate was passed last night (April 14th).

How much does it hit our taxpayers? 3.8% average increase, please keep in mind that due to fluctuations in market assessment some properties will be higher some will be lower.

Nobody including myself likes tax increases but this was certainly a step in the right direction after last years whopping 11.2% increase.

I have never voted for a tax increase in the last four budgets! why now? because for the first time in five years I was part of a council where the majority was willing to make tough decisions, was willing to make cuts where necessary. We all understand that costs go up each year but I always argued that taxes should not increase as long as a municipality is operating inefficiently.

How as council demonstrated its willingness to become more efficient?

First of all a Corporate Review, the majority as agreed that we need to have an independent non political outside body advise us as to where we could do better.

We made significant steps to reduce duplication of services, we will no longer be advertising in two local newspapers, we will no longer be doing a spring and fall cleanup.

We placed a moratorium on hiring, two positions that were scheduled to be put in place this summer, will not be filled.

We reduced funding to non profit organizations by 10%.

We reduced funding to our fire and rescue departments by close to $40,000

We reduced our equipment replacement program by 40%.

We reduced funding for country residential road maintenance, dust suppression and sidewalks by $55,000.

Finally the majority of council decided that we needed to lead by example and saved $10,000 by not sending Representatives to the FCM Convention in Whistler BC.

Most of these cuts were tough decisions especially when you have to reduce funding to non-profit groups but we can not keep on doing business the way we have.

Taxpayers cannot maintain double digit tax increases on an annual basis, just the areas listed above resulted in a yearly savings of $382,000 which is equal to a 6.3% tax increase add that to the 3.8% we agreed on and we would be above 10% again.

My hope here is that all of council will embrace the corporate review process, look at the results and take advantage of the recommendations that come forth to be even more efficient.