|James Burrows is a city councillor in St. Albert who sees a lot of good things happening in the city he has called home for the last ten years. Annexation is a very big issue in St. Albert these days. Can you give us a short history of how St. Albert came to find itself in this situation?|
St. Albert is at a crossroads right now where we need to have the municipality expand. The current annexation that we are looking at is thirteen hundred and thirty-one acres and that will give us enough growth to allow the city planners to plan the city out for the next thirteen to fourteen years. Usually the rationale when you do an annexation is that you should have enough land to expand and look after the needs of your city for twenty-five years. So two councils ago the council embarked on what was called the Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP) with our friends to the north, Sturgeon County, and this IDP will incrementally let St. Albert grow within this zone over the next fifty years. So based upon our analysis and our growth rate we are only comfortable with doing an annexation of lands for thirteen years immediately. And this is going to allow the city to grow in a northerly and north-westerly direction. Sturgeon County has residential acreages to our immediate east and it is not in St. Albert's interest to annex those lands. Therefore we can only expand to the north and Northwest.
There has been a lot of talk in Canadian politics about 'fiscal imbalance' in the last little while and our Prime Minister has indicated that he wants to address this through a taxation formula on gasoline. Can you walk us through the proposal as you understand it and tell me what you think of it?
For all municipalities across Canada it will be a fantastic opportunity. Municipalities have to be treated as an equal partner with the other two levels of government. Fortunately, we here in Alberta have the Klein government which has promised St. Albert specifically that it will receive $43 million incrementally over the next five years - about $9.2 every year. We can look at our infrastructure needs and plan for the St. Albert of tomorrow and fix up the St. Albert of yesterday. Now on the Federal side the gas taxes - it's only at one point five cents a litre right now - over the next five years will go up to five cents. So from the federal government this year it will give an extra $1.1 million to St. Albert and now that the budget was ratified that money will start to flow.
Two years ago the previous council embarked on a journey where Santect Engineering was hired to look at the infrastructure of the entire city vis a vis how many police officers we need per thousand citizens or where our water reservoirs are at in the Sturgeon subdivision and so forth. So now the administration has compiled all that information and is looking at it with Council for ways to spend this money from both the province and the federal government in the most expedient way to fix the infrastructure needs of St. Albert for both today and tomorrow.
Based upon the information that we have received from Santect our city is in relatively good shape because it is relatively still quite young compared to, say, Edmonton or Calgary. Our pipes in the ground and our sewers are actually in good shape.
Is the money that is coming from the two levels of government all earmarked for infrastructure upgrades or is it going to allow St. Albert to expand its services?
My understanding is that the infrastructure money from the Klein government is earmarked and has to be for infrastructure so we couldn't use it to offset the costs of the Recreation Centre that we are building, for instance. The Klein government has made it pretty clear that they are going to be able to audit what we are spending the money on so it has to be centred around the refurbishing of bridges, pipes, roads, sewers and so forth.
How do you feel the province will react to the idea of the federal government infringing on yet another area of provincial jurisdiction should this proposal go ahead?
Through the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association the deal that was signed off at the end of February or the beginning of March is basically that the federal gas tax will flow directly to the Government of Alberta who, in turn, will send that out to the municipalities directly. Actually the only jurisdiction that has signed off on the federal gas tax is Alberta, British Columbia, and the Yukon and I believe as of about ten days ago Ontario has signed off on it as well.
How is the Recreation Centre going?
We just had a briefing from administration.
There are no delays. Everything is on budget and everything is on time. And why that is is because since they broke ground sixty days ago the weather has been on our side. And with the guaranteed maximum price we can assure the taxpayers of St. Albert that there will be no cost overruns on the construction of the building. The populace at large really has no appetite to pay for things extra anymore. That is why the council of the day in the plebiscite went with the guaranteed maximum price.
And with money for infrastructure upgrades starting to flow St. Albert's prosperity seems guaranteed as well.