Broadband, disaster mitigation and recovery, infrastructure, and drought recovery are key issues facing rural municipalities.

The Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) are bringing the list to the attention of all federal election candidates and asking for a pledge of support.

RMA president Paul McLauchlin says while some may find elections chaotic and annoying, it's an important time to reach out to candidates so they understand the needs of rural municipalities.

It's called the RMA Federal Election Platform and is completely nonpartisan and being provided to all candidates.

He says rural Alberta punches way above its population weight class in fuelling the economy. It accounts for 41 per cent of Alberta public and private investment and 26 per cent of Alberta's GDP with only 18 per cent of the population.

He says rural municipalities manage 75 per cent of all roads and 60 per cent of all bridges in Alberta.

"Every road and every bridge is just that much more important because any investment in infrastructure in rural Alberta, helps our agriculture, our resources industries, helps get goods from A to B, so all these conversations around our overall GDP are tied to our transportation infrastructure."

"We're really looking to ensure the understanding rural infrastructure is part of the discussion. It's not about urban transportation, which is fine, but there are a bunch of us folks that are growing the food and moving the resource. Investing in capital projects in rural Alberta significantly helps Alberta's GDP.

Natural disasters and extreme weather have become more common. RMA is calling on all federal candidates to continue to empower local leaders with the right tools to adapt to climate change.

The need for a stronger and more rapid response to drought recovery is connected. Alberta isn't the only jurisdiction being impacted by this year's severe drought.

"This year is proof positive that we've had situations of floods in northern Alberta, and drought in southern, central, and eastern Alberta, so we're dealing with a chaotic world right now and disaster mitigation and creating resilient rural municipalities is so important to us as we start moving forward towards the next decade."

Unlike the 2001-2002 drought, it stretches to Manitoba and down into the United States, where some Montana farmers are loading up on Alberta-grown feed, causing further pressure on agriculture here. 

"This is a regional and transboundary international drought that is more significant than 2001 and 2002. We're going to see it on the backend as we start pulling off crops."

"One of our messages is we're really looking for a more expedient response. In the United States, they responded a lot faster. Rumour has it, and I haven't confirmed it yet, that the federal government in the US, actually provided trucking, so they are looking at trucking and recovering the trucking costs to make it cost-effective to move feed."

McLauchlin says some may find it surprising to hear some ranches are just starting to recover from BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalitis) crisis of 2003. He says this current drought could cause a 30 per cent culling of herds that will take upwards of 10 years to rebuild.

"People may leave the industry completely, and I'm actually hearing that. If you have a 10-year recovery window on your livelihood, you might change what you're doing, and that's a frightening prospect."

Rural areas continue to lag behind urban centres in access to broadband, and RMA believes federal support of rural broadband is more important than ever.

It's is calling on all federal candidates to commit to ensuring the funding already available under the Universal Broadband Fund be allocated to rural areas that truly need the support, rather than those which may be most profitable for internet service providers.

Today, Aug. 30, is the close of nominations for all candidates in the federal election.