WHEREAS for 20 years the Government of Alberta (GOA) has embraced a partnership with Alberta municipalities to plan and undertake regional economic development initiatives of mutual interest; and
WHEREAS the success of this partnership has made Alberta a leader in the delivery of regional economic development; and
WHEREAS Regional Economic Development Alliances (REDAs) provide a cost-efficient venue for the GOA and municipalities to build partnerships to foster economic growth in their regions; and
WHEREAS REDAs provide a substantial multiplier effect on dollars invested; and
WHEREAS the GOA has limited staffing resources and capacity to offer comparable economic tools and opportunities to rural members to those in urban areas, and
WHEREAS the majority of rural municipalities cannot afford to hire their own economic development officers; and
WHEREAS REDAs are dependent on the GOA’s support due to additional downloading onto municipalities such as policing, which limits the ability of REDAs to charge greater membership fees to municipalities; and
WHEREAS the five-year funding agreement for REDAs expired March 31, 2020 and there has been no response on a renewal of this contract; and
WHEREAS the loss of REDAs due to GOA funding cutbacks may result in the loss of strong intermunicipal collaborations in rural Alberta that have taken 20 years to build;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) advocate that the Government of Alberta enter into a five-year contract with the existing nine Regional Economic Development Alliances (REDAs) at an equivalent or higher funding arrangement as was in effect in the previous agreement; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that RMA request that the Government of Alberta enter into meaningful discussions with REDA chairs to ensure long-term sustainability of REDAs.
Rural Alberta communities rely on REDAs to help plan and undertake economic development activities. REDAs provide a forum and mechanism for municipalities and other economic development agencies to identify common issues and solutions to problems or opportunities beyond the limited resources of individual municipalities. Examples of big problems that benefit from the collective actions of municipalities include: broadband research, alternate and value-added crop studies; medical training in rural communities; regional infrastructure needs including future access to water; the retention of companies in rural communities through productivity initiatives; and the importance of supporting innovation and competitiveness as a way to retain and grow rural communities.
REDAs are supported by their member municipalities, community futures, post-secondary institutions, chambers of commerce and industry. Member municipalities are being asked by the GOA to prosper on reduced provincial grants, less funding and increased costs such as policing. This challenges REDAs to go back to their municipalities for more funding to make up for any shortfall from the GOA.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Economic Development, Trade and Tourism
Our government has made some tough decisions in planning the 2020-21 provincial budget. I am aware that measures undertaken to protect the health and safety of Albertans due to COVID-19 and the downturn in oil prices will have an important effect on our plans, the extent of which is not yet fully known.
Please be assured that the Regional Economic Development Alliances (REDAs) will continue to receive support for their organizational operations, although given the province’s fiscal challenges, this will be reduced from what was available in prior years. I feel strongly that REDAs have an important role to play in supporting growth and prosperity in Alberta’s local and regional economies. The Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Tourism (EDTT) will continue to work with REDAs and other economic development partners as we continue to stabilize our economy and move towards growth.
The current economic downturn, combined with the global pandemic, is having an unprecedented effect on Alberta’s citizens, regions and economy. EDTT is engaging extensively with businesses, economic development organizations, and industries during the pandemic; and will be adjusting our response and information on an ongoing basis. We continue to actively monitor the situation and are working to provide businesses with the information and supports that they need. For workplace guidance and supports to help businesses and non-profits affected by COVID-19 begin to reopen and resume operations safely, please visit alberta.ca/Bizconnect.
While the Government of Alberta response indicates the important role that regional economic development alliances (REDAs) play in Alberta’s economic growth, RMA is concerned with the indication that REDA funding will be reduced due to the province’s fiscal challenges. REDA’s play a crucial role in providing promotion and support for regional investment in the province and reducing their funding may provide the province with modest short-term fiscal relief but will likely result in reduced long-term investment and economic growth in rural areas.
In further follow-up correspondence on this issue, Alberta Jobs, Economy and Innovation (formerly Alberta Economic Development, Trade and Tourism) indicate that new three-year funding arrangements (2020-22) are being completed at a reduced rate from previous agreements. This is concerning as the resolution requests five-year funding arrangements at a level equivalent or higher than previous levels. Additionally, the supplementary correspondence indicated no plan to meet directly with the chairs of each REDA.
Although Alberta is in a much stronger fiscal position than at the time this resolution was endorsed, Alberta Jobs, Economy and Innovation has boostedfunding for REDA initiatives for an additional one year. This commitment is a step in the right direction and RMA hopes that the next budget brings longer term funding that aligns with the resolution request.
RMA assigns this resolution a status of Intent Not Met and will continue to advocate for adequate funding for REDAs, and for increased collaboration between the Government of Alberta and REDA chairs.