The Government of Alberta (GOA) is involved in an interprovincial collaboration with New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, aimed at promoting the advancement and deployment of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs). In March 2022, these collaborating provinces released a joint strategic plan on SMR deployment. Notably, the plan includes a section on public engagement, with a specific focus on Saskatchewan and Alberta due to the lack of existing nuclear facilities in these provinces. However, the plan does not explicitly address municipal engagement or outline a detailed plan for a public awareness campaign, a key component of Resolution 7-21F.
Given these developments, the RMA has embarked on a thorough review of this strategic plan document. Our goal is to evaluate its practical implementation and how closely it aligns with the directives of this resolution. Members will be updated with our findings and any subsequent developments.
The GOA has implemented a series of funding mechanisms, such as the Rural Small Schools Grant and the Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Grant, intended to help support the unique operational and capital costs faced by rural schools. These funding initiatives are intended to help rural schools deal with costs related to daily operations, maintenance, and upkeep of school facilities. They also account for factors such as the geographic location, rurality, and the sparsity of the areas served by the school jurisdiction. Despite these funding strategies, rural schools continue to face significant operational and financial obstacles that hamper their ability to deliver high-quality education to students in remote and rural communities.
The RMA acknowledges the GOA's initiatives as important steps towards supporting rural schools. However, further strategies need to be developed to fully address the challenges faced by these schools. This will require cooperative work between the province, municipalities, and school boards.
In line with this, the RMA is planning to further engage with the Alberta School Boards Association to discuss the current state of rural school funding, the effectiveness of the existing grant support, and the continued challenges rural schools face. We aim to understand if the school boards perceive the funding measures implemented by the GOA as being beneficial and adequate to address their unique challenges.
RMA will continue to monitor this situation closely, push for greater engagement with key stakeholders, and keep members informed of any new developments.
While the GOA has acknowledged the concerns surrounding school bus safety, the specific changes advocated in this resolution remain largely unaddressed.
The GOA has referred to the Student Transportation Task Force report, published by the Minister of Education in May 2021, as relevant to this resolution. This report outlines various challenges faced by the student transportation industry. However, it does not address the issues outlined in this resolution, specifically the implementation of a maximum speed limit of 60 km/hour or lower when passing school buses with flashing amber lights in both directions, and the establishment of regulations for roadside signage at school bus stops on primary highways in Alberta.
The RMA plans to examine the implementation of the Student Transportation Task Force's report more closely, specifically in relation to the directives of this resolution. Our objective is to gain a deeper understanding of how the report's recommendations are being actioned and the potential influence they may have on the concerns raised in the resolution.
The GOA has acknowledged the impacts of provincial recreational areas on neighboring municipalities but has yet to present a plan or approach to sufficiently support these municipalities. Despite the implementation of the Public Lands Camping Pass, which recognizes the costs borne by the GOA due to public use of these lands, there is currently no specialized mechanism to offset the costs incurred by municipalities providing services within these public lands or those dealing with the neighboring impacts.
In response to these concerns, the RMA intends to engage directly with municipalities impacted by recreational activities on neighboring public lands to better understand the unique challenges these municipalities face due to recreational use of public lands.
The RMA plans to leverage the insights gathered from these consultations to deepen our understanding of the GOA's perspective on this issue. Our goal is to underscore the need for a more supportive and equitable funding structure that can help alleviate the financial burden experienced by affected municipalities. We will keep members informed of any updates that arise and any subsequent developments related to this issue.