The Long Range Financial Plan that this council unanimously passed was a good one at the time. It showed a clear path to where we needed to be after the opening of the MLC. Reality proved much more difficult in it's execution. We did not stick to the 3% tax increases year over year whilst continuing to split the mill rate. We understood that impacts of these planned tax increases were not feasible for residents or businesses who were facing tough economic times and then even more so in the pandemic. We worked hard to keep the tax increases as low as possible, while still moving the needle out of a deficit position.
The Municipal Government Act states that Municipalities are not allowed to run deficit budgets, and though we use a consolidated budget consisting of capital and utilities for reporting purposes, this cannot continue. Doing this only sets us up for big problems in the future and is not responsible long term governance.
This next council will need to revisit and revise the long range plan, making it more viable for our current and long term situation and be palatable for business and residents.
I would advocate for this, as well as move to freeze all new capital projects for the 2022 budget season. I believe this would put a freeze on spending, allow us to thoroughly plan and allow us to 'catch-up' without raising taxes.
One of the things I am most proud of and passionate about is local reconciliation efforts. This council worked hard at building relationships with our Alexander First Nation neighbors and are at a point where we are finally moving forward together. This spring, the Town of Morinville & Alexander First Nation Task Force was created. We will be discovering our shared history and planning our unified path toward what reconciliation is to us.
There is much work to be done and it is about time. Our nation is finally waking up to the realities and challenges indigenous peoples have, and continue to suffer and navigate. As an indigenous person, resident and council member of the task force, this is a priority to me.
Morinville needs to continue being a valued and respected member of the EMRB as we move forward with the region to share services, address regional land-use and realize efficiencies through collaboration.
We have come far in the past four years when it comes to cost and service sharing with our sub-regional partners. Completing an ICF (Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework) with Sturgeon County for fair recreation cost sharing was a large focus and resulted in success. We have recently entered into a recreation ICF with St. Albert that is promising for future planning and could even be expanded in the future to include social services. We have service agreements in place with Gibbons, Bon Accord, Legal Redwater and Sturgeon County that are continuously being revisited and improved upon.
Maintaining our presence at the table and developing relationships with all of our regional partners is paramount to our ability to thrive and discover mutually beneficial service and cost-sharing opportunities.
My dream has always been a social services community hub for our residents. I have been a huge advocate for our community and volunteer groups since moving to Morinville. It is key that we continue to work on bringing our not-for-profit community together to ensure mutual sustainability. In order to achieve the highest quality of life at the lowest cost to residents it is important that we activate all resources in the community, especially post-pandemic.
There has been some ground work done early on in the last term to discover our community groups challenges, needs and wants, however, the work was halted when faced by covid-19. Groups have had to find a whole new way to operate with limited opportunities for volunteers. One challenge will be helping these groups to recoup and grow their volunteer base. Another is finding adequate and functional space to fit their need.
I would work hard to refocus on this dream, bring groups together in ways that are mutually beneficial and find ways to leverage federal and provincial grants to make a one-stop-shop a reality.
I learned a lot while sitting on the Regional Transit Commission working group and helping to create regional transit. One of those things was how transit effects a municipalities ability to grow. While Morinville remains disconnected from the region, we limit our investment opportunities from residential developers, business and industry. Giving all our residents the opportunity to move about the region freely, we restrict access to health care, education, recreation and employment. The groundwork has already been laid for us to ask that the act be opened, and allow Morinville to join the Edmonton Metropolitan Transit Services Commission (EMTSC). This would allow us to provide reliable and affordable transit for about 1/3 of the cost it would to run a transit operation by ourselves.
I realize that this will not happen immediately as we are still in a pandemic. However, I will be advocating for it in the last half of our upcoming term, and if passed by council would still take another 18 months for the process of opening the act to be added. The great news is, Morinville has respect and a great relationship with the commission, due to the hard work in contributing to design it and stand it up.