AUMA had a conversation with the Honourable Tracy Allard, Minister of Municipal Affairs, to discuss areas of key interest to our municipalities.
AUMA: What sports team do you cheer for, and why?
Tracy Allard: As a University of British Columbia alumnus, I am a big fan of the Vancouver Canucks. I still root for them to this day, as I have a soft spot for underdogs. I also love the New England Patriots, who are the opposite of underdogs, because of their organizational commitment to success.
AUMA: What is your favourite activity in the fall?
Tracy Allard: Definitely sharing homemade pumpkin pie with friends and family.
AUMA: What would our members be surprised to learn about you?
Tracy Allard: I am a native Yukoner, so I really love a cold winter day – something in the neighbourhood of 40 below.
AUMA: What is your favourite sport and why?
Tracy Allard: Volleyball. I’m the proud parent of a stellar AAA volleyball player.
AUMA: You have been very involved as a volunteer over the years. Do you have a favourite volunteer story you would like to share?
Tracy Allard: For years, along with members of my church, I hosted a party at my home kitchen where we baked 100 apple pies for widowed seniors in the Grande Prairie area to have for Thanksgiving. My husband, Serge, and I are still cleaning up sugar and flour from this.
AUMA: What book are you reading right now?
Tracy Allard: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens.
AUMA: As local governments work with their neighbouring municipalities to enter into Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks, how do you plan to help municipalities complete these challenging but important negotiations before next year’s deadline?
Tracy Allard: The province understands that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented many challenges for municipalities who have yet to complete their Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks (ICFs). To support municipalities with the completion of their ICFs, we have extended the deadline to April 21, 2021, instead of April 1, 2020. Municipal Affairs has also made many departmental resources available to aid in the completion of ICFs, including the ICF workbook – which was developed in partnership with the AUMA and RMA – and which is available online.
AUMA: What is your vision for a partnership between the province and municipalities to fund and care for the essential infrastructure that Albertans rely on in each community?
Tracy Allard: The province and municipalities can and should be great partners in building and maintaining essential infrastructure. The Municipal Stimulus Program (MSP) is a good example of how that partnership can work. Through the MSP, the province is working closely with municipalities to identify shovel-ready infrastructure needs and flow the necessary funds. Local leaders often understand the needs of their communities best, so it’s important that the province have a close working relationship with local leaders in the funding and delivery of essential infrastructure.
AUMA: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing municipalities, and what opportunities do you see for your government, AUMA, and our members to work together in overcoming these challenges?
Tracy Allard: Like the province, municipalities are facing significant budget consequences as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maintaining high levels of services delivery while managing these consequences will be the greatest challenge for leaders at every level. Through the pandemic, there have been regular town halls with the province and municipalities. I hope to keep those lines of communication open between the province and municipalities as we work toward and through the recovery.
AUMA: What has surprised you most about your portfolio since being appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs?
Tracy Allard: Many people think the Municipal Affairs portfolio is limited to administration issues, but it includes everything from emergency management to building codes to libraries. A lot of very important priorities touch Municipal Affairs. It is an extraordinarily broad and complex file that I’m looking forward to managing.
AUMA: What role do you see municipalities playing as the province recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic?
Tracy Allard: We know municipalities are uniquely positioned to help get our province through this pandemic. That is why we recently provided $1.1 billion in municipal stimulus support. Alberta’s local leaders know their communities best and will use this funding to help create jobs, attract investment, and spur economic development across our province. Our government is looking forward to working with them as partners to get the job done.
AUMA: What do you think is the future for municipal governance, particularly with respect to governance and regionalization?
Tracy Allard: The extraordinarily difficult circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic have created an opportunity for some creative dialogue around this subject. I’m curious to know what our municipal leaders think and welcome their feedback. Regardless of what the future looks like, all Albertans live in municipalities, and all Albertans require strong, accountable representation from their local leaders.