Over 40 people were in attendance at Wheatland County Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday morning for the Alberta First Resolution debate. Division 1 Councillor Jason Wilson first proposed the resolution to Council on November 5. Council requested additional feedback after the December 3 meeting and offered an opportunity for residents within the County to have their say either online or in-person at the meeting.
“I’ve had the honour to hear from residents of the county and people all over the province, whether it be locals, municipal leaders or even MPs, the vast majority believe that Alberta is getting a raw deal from the federal government,” Division 1 Councillor Jason Wilson said.
“We want Ottawa to understand our frustrations.”
Although it wasn’t an actual public hearing, County Reeve Amber Link told the guests that they would treat it similarly for process and asked those in favour to come forward to speak to the resolution.
Allan McLelland, a Division 1 resident, spoke first. “I believe all levels of government need to collaborate, regardless of whether they’re federal or municipal. I think it addresses problems we’ve had in the past.”
The second speaker had a written statement prepared. He had grown up farming and in recent years was in the hotel and car dealership industries. “Business is no stranger to me,” he said.
“Because of the past provincial government, that being the NDP, and the federal Liberals at the same time, they managed to cripple Alberta to the point of no return. Consequently, our new Premier, Mr. Kenney, has inherited their total mess which possibly can never be repaired.”
“Our province boomed for decades; Ottawa will keep grinding Alberta into the dirt with poverty being inevitable. Alberta was thriving on its own – but guess what? Those days are over,” he said.
He concluded by adding that he was in favour of the Fair Deal the UCP government is currently working toward and believes it should be the final attempt at remaining part of confederation.
One woman mentioned that there was no harm in passing the resolution. “We are no different than any other minority group in Canada; we just want to be treated equally.”
Those against the motion were mostly concerned with the final paragraph regarding the referendum on separation but also the over-reliance on the oil and gas industry to pay the bills, loss of services due to the unsustainable provincial tax structure, downloading responsibilities to municipalities, and a perceived unwillingness to join the ‘future economies’.
After hearing from residents, council debated amongst themselves and took a few more questions.
“The biggest concern we’re hearing is that the final paragraph has branded us as separatists,” Councillor Donna Biggar said.
After proposing a motion to remove the paragraph from the resolution, which was passed by a vote of four to three, the resolution was accepted by council by a vote of four to three.
The resolution will now be brought to the Central Zone meeting of Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) where Wheatland County will propose it for sponsorship in January. If the resolution receives sponsorship, it will be brought to the RMA meeting in the fall of 2020 for the same.
RMA acts as an advocate on behalf of rural municipalities with other levels of government.