Following Monday Night's 2023 Election, which saw Danielle Smith lead her party to a majority government, Alberta Municipalities President Cathy Heron expressed her thoughts on the election results and outlined key priorities for collaboration with the newly elected government.
Heron highlighted the potential for a reset with a brand new cabinet, expressing her hopes for the return of Rebecca Schultz as the Municipal Affairs Minister, "I would love to see Rebecca return as Municipal Affairs Minister, although I don't know if that will happen."
While acknowledging the need for new relationships, Heron emphasized the importance of preserving established connections to ensure the interests of municipalities are effectively represented.
In a one-on-one interview for the Cross Border Interviews, Heron voiced some concerns about the lack of commitment from the current United Conservative Party (UCP) government in addressing the needs of municipalities, "We've been advocating for a long time for an increase to the pot of money for Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF)."
Heron admits that if an NDP goverment was elected on Monday she would have seen some movement, but now that the UCP have been re-elected, "we'll keep trying keep advocating"
Heron highlighted the importance of finding alternative funding streams and exploring options that focus on housing and transit, such as the existing green chip funding, to support municipal initiatives.
Public safety, specifically the conversation surrounding the potential establishment of a provincial police force, also drew Heron's attention. She expressed a sense of anxiety among the membership regarding the direction the new government may take on this matter. "(Smith) was very vocal during the (2022 UCP) leadership campaign that she supported provincial policing, she's on record saying she would do it right away." Heron said that the conservation around the idea of a provincial police force during the election was, "Very quiet."
While some municipalities may have the option to establish their own municipal forces, like Grand Prairie, Heron stressed the need to address the concerns of smaller municipalities that rely on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Determining the next steps and seeking clarity through consultation with the government will be a priority for Heron, "I did talk to Mike Ellis (Minsiter of Public Safety) about it. And all he would say is no decisions have been made. So there's there's some anxiety."
Shifting the focus to healthcare, Heron acknowledged positive steps taken by both parties during the election campaign, particularly regarding emergency medical services (EMS). She expressed optimism that the UCP would prioritize healthcare and build on the progress already made in the sector. Heron believed that regardless of the election outcome, there is a shared commitment to improving healthcare in Alberta.
When asked about the now perceived Urban-Rural Divide in Alberta, Heron that the strength of Alberta Municipalities is cemented in its members, "I think that's sometimes the strength of Alberta municipalities is we represent the big cities. But we also represent, you know, a very remote town or village, north part of Alberta."
The UCP were shut out in Alberta's capital of Edmonton's, with all 19 provincial seats in the Alberta NDP column. Of Calgary's 26 Provincial seats, the UCP only kept 12 seats in the province's largest city, down from 23 seats in 2019.
Heron said that with the opposition now the more dominate party in Alberta's largest cities, Alberta Municipalities will step up and advocate for them as well.
Looking ahead, Alberta Municipalities President Cathy Heron is committed to forging strong partnerships and maintaining open lines of communication with the newly elected government.