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WHEREAS the current costs for natural gas are having a dramatic impact on the citizens of Alberta; AND WHEREAS rural municipalities fund much of the utility costs for public facilities such as community halls, recreation and cultural facilities; AND WHEREAS the largest operating cost of many public facilities and individual residences is the cost of utilities; AND WHEREAS significant increases in natural gas prices provide the Province of Alberta with significant unanticipated increases in revenue, as a result of increased royalty revenue;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC urge the Government of Alberta to put in place a natural gas rebate program for municipalities and the citizens of Alberta to offset the high cost of natural gas;AND FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC urge the Government of Alberta to ensure that these energy rebates are free of any future requirement for reimbursement to utility supply entities or the Province.
Natural gas prices in Alberta have hovered in the range of $7.00 per gigajoule since early in 2003, leading to substantial and sudden increases in utility bills for most Albertans.These price increases pose significant financial hardship for those Albertans on fixed incomes, such as seniors and those receiving financial assistance. Other Albertans are also affected, not only individually but as communities. Community facilities such as community halls, recreation centres, ice arenas, and swimming pools often expend a majority of their operating budgets on utility costs, and the sudden increases in natural gas prices have led to concerns in some communities, particularly smaller communities, about the ability to continue operating these facilities while natural gas prices remain so high.The Alberta government receives significant revenues from natural gas royalties, and it is not reasonable that the provincial government reap the benefits of high natural gas prices while the citizens and communities it represents incur substantial financial hardship as a result of the same phenomenon. When the Natural Gas Price Protection Act was enacted in 2001, Albertans were promised protection from exactly the kind of situation we now face. The Government of Alberta should live up to that promise, and immediately institute some form of consumer rebates, as in 2000 and 2001.
The AAMDC has no resolutions currently in effect that deal directly with the concept of a natural gas rebate program. However, delegates to the 2001 Spring Convention did address concerns regarding high energy costs, when they endorsed Resolution 17-01S calling on the provincial government to immediately develop a long-term action plan to alleviate and eliminate the high cost of energy for Albertans.The Government of Alberta did introduce a natural gas rebate program in 2000/01, which provided a total of more than $1.1 billion in rebates to residential, commercial and institutional consumers. The Natural Gas Price Protection Act was introduced and passed in the Spring of 2001, and the regulations under that Act authorize a further rebate program when the average natural gas price over a fiscal year exceeds $5.50/GJ. While prices have exceeded this target since the late fall of 2002, Alberta Energy states (as of February 26, 2003) that the average price for fiscal 2002/03 is currently at approximately $4.41/GJ.