Big Lakes County and the Town of High Prairie share something in common.
In fact, they both share something in common with a great number of communities around Alberta. Fairview. Rocky Mountain House. Counties like Athabasca. Camrose. Woodland. Opportunity. Sunrise, Smoky River, and so many more it is actually ridiculous.
The common thread is never, ever have these governments, and in fact the vast majority of governments around Alberta, complained they had so much growth, they just couldn’t handle it! Never!
The Alberta economy is on the verge of thinking $70 oil might be around for awhile. The spread between commonly quoted West Texas Intermediate and the price Alberta actually gets for heavy oilsands oil has shrunk from over $30 US per barrel to less just over $15 per barrel. The federal government says they will support the Trans Mountain pipeline. That will help move Alberta crude to world prices. All in all, things are again looking up for Alberta.
Predictably, energy towns are again ramping up the whining.
“Oh my goodness,” cries Grande Prairie Mayor Bill Given as we paraphrase his recent remarks. “This boom is just too much. We need to get ahead of the growth curve before it really explodes. Please, provincial and federal governments. Send us money! We are desperate trying to build roads and sewers and industrial parks.”
And on. And on, it goes.
Now come on. When High Prairie was paying 43 per cent of its taxes for RCMP police costs, the City of Grande Prairie played deaf. Now, the same city whines and cries they need help because their police costs are so high at just over 20 per cent of taxes! Wow!
Former town manager Pat Vincent of Slave Lake once told High Prairie councillors when they were desperately looking for support. “Suck it up. We handle it. You should learn to do the same.”
No help for High Prairie there!
These days, Vincent is gone to greener pastures. And Slave Lake, like Grande Prairie, now has their hand out looking for provincial money for RCMP.
Both SL and GP have legitimate concerns. And even though they were absolutely deaf, dumb, smarmy, and somewhat ignorant when High Prairie was in need, there is no need for the same in return. But!
But, as in why is it that people in a boom town like Grande Prairie can’t eat the costs needed to keep their community afloat? Put up taxes. Charge developers and taxpayers the cost of building new things. The entire community benefits from growth. So why not the entire community, and only that community, pay for the benefits their growth brings in more services, bigger and better schools, bigger and better amenities? Why do they need a free ride?
As the rest of Alberta always says about crybaby boom towns, “Gee, if that was all we had to cry about, please, we will take your problems any day of the week.”