The mayors of 23 mid-sized cities made it clear to UCP leadership hopefuls that they're are looking for a fairer infrastructure funding model when the Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF) comes into effect in 2024.

In a closed session held in Cochrane yesterday, the mayors and their chief executive administrators met with Leela Aheer, Todd Loewen, Brian Jean, Rebecca Schulz, Danielle Smith, and Travis Toews to hear their platforms and hold an extensive question and answer period.

Mayor Jeff Genung, chair of the Mid-Sized Cities Mayors’ Caucus (MCMC), says the mid-sized cities deserve a better deal than what is being provided by the province right now. He says they represent one million Albertans, making them collectively the third-largest city behind Calgary and Edmonton.

"They need to listen to us. We have specific needs, we have specific issues and we're collectively aligning ourselves to be that third big city."

"We feel that our needs are different, and we're being treated like small communities, not like the mid-sized cities that we are, and we're not getting our fair share of funding," says Genung.

He says they aren't looking for a hand-out, nor a blank cheque.

"We want to collaborate with the province. We don't want to be adversarial, we want to work together to enable the funding to flow into our communities because we are the economic engine of the province of Alberta right now."

Genung says Alberta's large cities have a charter and he believes that might also be what's required for mid-sized cities.

Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding is scheduled to end in 2022 and municipalities have been forewarned municipalities will receive less funding in the new model.

That makes this the ideal time to have these discussions with this group of people.

"The big thing for me is whoever's going to be the next premier was likely in the room," says Genung.

Cochrane has a living example of how a funding partnership can be successful with the province. The Hwy. 1A improvements through town are being jointly funded by the province and town.

"We've really shown how we can partner with the province on a project that likely wouldn't have happened on its own if we waited for the province," he says. "We've taken some criticism for putting some municipal dollars in there, but all of those funds will be coming back through grants or off-site levies, so it won't be a tax burden overall."

During their 10-minute allotment, each candidate shared their perspectives on municipal funding, health care, intergovernmental relations, and building relationships with Albertans.

Speaking from a Cochrane perspective, Genung says the connections made yesterday will be valuable.

"Getting in front of that next premier, having them understand who we are, who I am, introducing our team, and building relationships so that we can, whoever is successful on Oct. 6, see Cochrane successful in other projects."

Genung says arrangements are already in the works to have a MCMC session with leaders of all major parties before next spring's election.

The MCMC did the same prior to the 2019 election.

Besides Cochrane, member municipalities are Airdrie, Beaumont, Brooks, Camrose, Chestermere, Cochrane, Cold Lake, Fort Saskatchewan, Grande Prairie, Lacombe, Leduc, Lethbridge, Lloydminster, Medicine Hat, Okotoks, Red Deer, Spruce Grove, St. Albert, Stony Plain, Strathcona County, Sylvan Lake, Wetaskiwin and the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

Genung says Canmore has recently expressed interest in joining the caucus.