Reeve's Reflections

Oil and Gas Woes Impacting Municipality's Bottom Line

Merrill Harris

Despite the wet start to the growing season, and the poor weather during the month of September, by all reports it was a successful growing season with record yields and sugar content reported by the sugar beet growers, full potato storage facilities reported by potato growers and full grain storage bins reported by grain, oilseed and pulse growers. It was an unusual year with many challenges but our local agricultural producers once again demonstrated why our region is so productive.

There certainly was much concern about the re-opening of the NAFTA agreement with some concern that the sugar beet industry would be thrown under the bus in favor of protecting other sectors of the economy. Fortunately these fears were unfounded and as it turns out an additional 9,600 tonnes of sugar will be allowed access into the U.S. market in addition to the current 10,300 tonnes. Great news for our sugar beet industry and news which ensures that the industry will continue to thrive in our region.

Locally the M.D. of Taber and the Town of Vauxhall have been working cooperatively through their joint water utility provider the Vauxhall and District Regional Water Services Commission to facilitate the construction of a raw water supply line from a Bow River Irrigation District reservoir and a treated water supply line to the Prairie Gold Potato plant located east of Vauxhall. This project will provide treated water to the Prairie Gold Plant which processes approximately 40,000 tonnes of potatoes annually and employs over 60 people. The PGP plant is a valuable part of our southern Alberta potato industry and our local economy. Changing food safety requirements of export destined products produced at the plant required the development of an innovative partnership to ensure that this business remained viable and demonstrates the ongoing collaboration that the MD has with local business and other communities.

The Council has been engaged in the review of policies as well as the development of the 2019 municipal budget. There is no question that the inability of the provincial and federal governments to approve oil and gas pipelines continues to impact our municipality. We continue to witness a contraction of the oil and gas industry within our municipality and this trend will impact every property owner in the municipality as the property tax burden shifts to residential and farm property owners from non-residential / linear oil and gas. 70% of property taxes collected in the MD are paid by non-residential / linear oil and gas. Without a resurgence of the oil and gas industry, an inevitable shift of the proportion of property taxes paid by each property class will occur. Council will remain vigilant to ensure that core municipal services continue within a scope which is affordable to our community.

The M.D. of Taber applied for Disaster Recovery Program funding as a result of the spring floods. The municipality incurred $400,000 in costs related to the mitigation of the flood event and an additional $1.2 million in internal and contracted costs to repair the damages. The province has announced a program to reimburse eligible costs incurred by the municipality. As a result of the approval of the Disaster Recovery application, residents and businesses in the MD are eligible to make application for reimbursement of eligible uninsurable losses. If you haven’t done so already please contact the M.D. office to determine your eligibility – the application period ends in early January 2019.

The M.D. of Taber is working with our irrigation districts on projects, which will enhance stormwater drainage. These projects are costly and as such the M.D. has been actively seeking funding from both Federal and Provincial sources. These projects include the West Township 8 Range 16 project, which has received $2.3 million in funding. The Horsefly Spillway Project is a significant project for both our municipality and other southern Alberta municipalities and irrigation districts. These projects also include the development of wetlands which will significantly enhance water quality.

On behalf of the Council and Staff of the Municipal District of Taber I would like to extend to you a Merry Christmas and wishes for a Happy and Joyous New Year.

Merrill Harris 
Municipal District of Taber