Municipal leaders of mid-sized cities continue to push for a new partnership with the provincial government to address infrastructure deficits that are very real.

Yesterday, representatives of the 24 municipalities comprising the Alberta Mid-sized Cities Mayors' Caucus (MCMC) met with Premier Danielle Smith in a closed-door session to discuss major issues impacting their jurisdictions, the biggest being capital funding.

Municipal leaders put on their best faces at a press scrum when recapping discussions with the premier yesterday, but there was an audible groan from many of the mayors when talking about the MSI funding increases the Alberta Government has been flaunting. They were quick to point out, yes, they are receiving a few more dollars on the operational side, but nothing for capital projects, where they desperately need the funds.

Yet they are optimistic about future increases promised by the government,

Under the new Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF), baseline capital funding for municipalities is set at $722 million for the 2024-25 fiscal year. An update to the LGFF Revenue Index Factor from 50 per cent to 100 per cent will mean that annual capital funding for municipalities will rise or fall by the exact same percentage as provincial revenues from three years prior.

Lloydminster mayorIt was Lloydminster mayor Gerald Aalbers who brought up the question of specific mid-sized city funding with the premier. Afterward, spoke of the challenges they face with EMS.

According to the government's 2023-24 budget estimates, capital funding allocations are identical to 2022.

MSI allocation numbers from Alberta Municipal Affairs, indicate Cochrane will receive $3,295,030, the same as last year, and the lowest amount since 2010. Cochrane had 17,000 people back then and it's population has since doubled.

It's no different for our neighbouring city of Airdrie, the sixth largest city in Alberta. It's scheduled 2023-24 allotment is $7,490,765, the lowest since 2011. Airdrie has grown by over 30,000 people in the last dozen years.

Airdrie Mayor Peter Brown believes infrastructure deficits are a common problem across the province, but especially in the greater Calgary region, where rapid growth continues.

"Premier Smith was very frank, and the best part about her discussion was if there's a better way to do it, they're open to having those conversations," says Mayor Brown. "She said there was some pushback around LGFF and some of the funding formulas from some of her cabinet, but I think when she left, she understood that fast-growing communities like Cochrane and Airdrie, Okotoks, wherever, across this province have huge infrastructure deficits."

The City of Airdrie has a daunting challenge ahead in meeting the fundamental needs of their 80,000-plus people

"We need capital infrastructure. We have literally a 10-year capital program that's close to $1 billion in Airdrie alone. That's a lot of reserves. That's a lot of capital infrastructure. That's a lot of expense, and we can't do it on our own. There's water lines, fire halls, recreation facilities, road maintenance, you name it, all kinds of different projects."

If Cochrane follows its current plan, its capital reserves will be tapped out by 2028. Projects amount to an estimated $344 million over the next 10 years, and $86 million in the next three years alone. In 2028, there are nearly $90 million in projects currently scheduled and that's the same year our capital reserves are projected to go deep into negative territory.

Despite these scenarios, MCMC chair Jeff Genung believes discussions with the premier in advance of the provincial election were fruitful. The caucus is advocating for a meaningful working partnership with the province, and Genung says she was open to collaboration.

Genung says the mid-sized cities are facing the same challenges as Edmonton and Calgary but do not receive adequate levels of funding. They are seeking their own charter, much like the one created for Edmonton and Calgary.

The municipal leaders also met with Municipal Affairs minister Rebecca Schultz yesterday afternoon.

Neither Premier Smith nor Schultz made themselves available at the scrum.

The mayors continue their meetings today and into Friday. Meetings are scheduled with Official Opposition Leader Rachel Notley and Alberta Party leader Barry Morishita.

All will be asked a series of questions on how they would address affordable housing and homelessness, public safety, emergency medical services, dedicated and transparent provincial funding, and ongoing engagement between the province and MCMC.

The caucus is comprised of 24 municipalities, 35 provincial constituencies and represents nearly one million Albertans.