Mayor, Town of High Prairie
Following is a portion of Town of High Prairie Mayor Linda Cox’s report for March 8-21:
March 16-17, I, with Councillor Debbie Rose, attended the Digital Futures Conference in Cochrane, AB.
This two-day workshop hosted by the Van Horne Institute is designed for community leaders, government officials, industry, and academics to stay abreast of Broadband Internet developments. Things are moving fast [relatively] in this area, as the CRTC has mandated Broadband Internet as a basic service for 90 per cent of communities in Canada by 2021.
This is especially significant in rural and remote communities, some of which are still on dial-up. The goal is to provide similar quality of service to rural and remote areas as urban areas already have access to.
This year, $500 million was available from the federal government and next year another program with $750 million will be coming. Big Lakes County, with the Town of High Prairie as a partner, applied for this year’s funding to produce a planning document on how to connect the town, hamlets, First Nations, Metis Settlements and rural residents in Big Lakes County. We have not yet heard whether the application was successful.
Presentations I found of particular interest were how other municipalities across the province are developing local solutions. These include: Olds, who own O-Net, and is selling broadband as a utility; Nanton, who signed up with Axia, and they are running the network; Cardston County, who are doing three towns in fibre and using towers to cover the rest of the county’s residents; and the Technical Services Advisory Group, who provide some First Nations with Broadband Internet.
We also had a presentation from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, a non-profit agency who gave an education seminar on Intelligent Communities and how innovation keys off of existing services in an incremental way i.e. building blocks each advancing slightly from the previous one.
Mayors & Reeves Caucus
March 20, I attended the NAMRC at Rogers Place in Edmonton. There were about 50 mayors and reeves in attendance.
Hon. Shaye Anderson, Minister of Municipal Affairs, was there to give an update on the province’s budget released March 16. Our Municipal Sustainability funding was not cut back. Our town’s capital budget receives the greatest portion of the MSI funding for which we are eligible, about $600,000.
Anderson encouraged more cooperation on large regional projects. An example where we are collaborating with Big Lakes County is on their regional waterline initiative.
He also wanted to see First Nations and Metis Settlements involved in the collaborations, which again, we are doing in our region.
Hon Deron Bilous, Minister of Economic Development and Trade, attended. His was an upbeat presentation as the economic forecast for 2017-18 will see Alberta lead Canada in economic growth. The Alberta economy is bigger than British Columbia and Manitoba combined.
And of course, as you have heard many times, “when Alberta does good, Canada does good.” A presentation on Partnering with Northern Albertans for a Healthier Future, made by Dr. Verna Yiu CEO of Alberta Health Services, rounded out our morning.