It’s funny how the world of politics works. It’s next to impossible to predict, but there are still those who try.
The day after Premier Jim Prentice seemed to blame Albertans for the province’s current fiscal woes, we found out that the government was increasing its Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding by $399 million — perhaps there was no mistake in the timing of this announcement.
Cochrane will be getting $1.9 million of the pie, and has announced it will put the money toward the new aquatic/curling facility.
There have been some, both on council and in the general public, who have voiced concern over the possibility of the town seeing a decrease in MSI funding due to the drop in oil prices…a very real and valid concern. And to be clear, just because the government has announced this $400 million increase certainly doesn’t mean there will be no cuts in the future.
For now, however, it’s interesting to see how unpredictable politics can be. Even in the face of plummeting oil and gas revenues due to falling oil prices, the government has increased its MSI funding.
It’s a crapshoot, a gamble, a game of will, where no one really knows what’s going to happen, and can only make their best, most logical/educated guess.
In January, Cochrane council discussed the possibility of losing some MSI funding (of which, $24 million is being put toward the new pool project) a concern town administration said they did not expect would happen, but needed to discuss nonetheless.
Councillor Morgan Nagel was justifiably cautious, suggesting the town delay its plans to award tender for the new aquatic/curling facility and wait for the province’s budget to be released.
Paige Milner, the town’s senior manager of corporate services, councillor Jeff Toews and Mayor Ivan Brooker (who said he had spoken to Banff-Cochrane MLA Ron Casey, who said he had not heard of any decrease in MSI funding) all said they did not believe there was any threat to the town’s MSI funding, and that the aquatic/curling project should move forward as planned.
Nagel pointed out that the current financial crisis was quite different for Alberta than those previous, as this time around it was a result of the very product the province relies on, oil, and could have a lasting effect and trickle down to municipalities. Nagel could be spot on about this, but as mentioned above, it’s nothing more than a best guess…who knows what will happen in the next few years?
Maybe Cochrane will get even more MSI funding, and the amusing part of it is, the price of oil could have nothing to do with it, despite the logical belief that it should.
The last time the Eagle ran a Rock the Waves (fundraising campaign for the new pool) graphic was last June, and the grand total was $1.27 million of a $10.6 million goal.
Eight months later, the campaign has garnered $4.42 million, leaving just over $6 million to go.
Council’s approved funding model for the $45 million aquatic/curling facility gets $24 million from MSI, $6.2 million from developer community enhancement fees, $2.2 million from Rocky View County, $2 million from the federal gas tax fund and the remaining $10.6 from fundraising and sponsorship.
And, the addition of the government’s recent $1.9 million in funding would potentially open up MSI monies for other projects in the future.
Cochrane was not the only municipality in the area that received additional MSI funding — Rocky View County got $5.6 million; Redwood Meadows, $85,670; Ghost Lake $15,554; and Waiparous received $10,048.
Despite MSI funding – or any other kind of funding for that matter – there will remain those who are against spending that kind of cash on a new aquatic/curling complex, and those people are entitled to their opinion, as it is a legitimate argument to make.
But people must be aware that the game of predicting politics is like playing Russian roulette… you never know what’s going to happen.