Mayor applauds efforts from province to create incentives

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Incentives to attract new businesses to High Prairie may get added support from the new provincial government.

Town of High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk lauds the new United Conservative Party government’s priority to create incentives.

“One of the town’s priorities is economic development and it is good to see this is a priority with the province,” Panasiuk says.

He responds to a letter from Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu dated June 14.

“I am not sure how the province’s strategy of enabling property tax incentives is going to make a difference for our town as we have done tax incentives in the past,” Panasiuk says.

The Municipal Government [Property Tax Incentive] Amendment Act [Bill 7] was introduced by the government June 4.

If passed, Bill 7 would allow municipalities to provide property tax incentives for up to 15 years, down from the year-to-year incentives they were allowed to provide previously.

Economic growth is a main priority for the government.

“One of my key priorities will include working with municipalities to attract investment and create jobs through . . . property tax incentives,” Madu says.

Tax breaks divided council when it discussed incentives at its regular meeting April 23.

Council has responded to a letter from the High Prairie and Area Chamber of Commerce. The chamber asked council to consider incentives to provide free land and a tax-free break for two or three years for the town taxes to new businesses of 20 or more employees.

Some councillors say it’s not fair to businesses that were not offered incentives years ago.

Panasiuk is also pleased the minister wants to reduce policing costs. Madu says he commits to talk to municipalities about the province’s funding formula for police services, including any burden imposed on local law enforcement caused by the federal legalization of cannabis.

“I look forward to discussions with the minister,” Panasiuk says.

Municipalities with a population over 5,000 people have to fund the cost of policing in their community and this is can be a large expense.

High Prairie has a population of 2,600.

“I will fight to keep it that way,” Panasiuk says.

Madu says he is working with Solicitor General and Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer.

Panasiuk is also pleased that Madu is developing a long-term municipal funding program.

I am excited that the new government is committed to working with municipalities on a adequate and predictable funding formula for municipalitie,” Panasiuk says.

“This is important to the Town of High Prairie but also every other town in the province.”

Big Lakes County Reeve Richard Simard did not respond to requests for comments.

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