Wheatland County Reeve Amber Link has been elected to the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) board of directors.
The RMA is an independent association of Alberta’s counties and municipal districts. It is led by a board of directors, composed of a president, vice-president and five directors each representing a unique district of the province.
Link was elected as director of RMA District 2 (Central), representing 13 counties (Clearwater, Kneehill, Lacombe, Mountain View, Paintearth, Ponoka, Red Deer, Red Deer, Rocky View, Starland, Stettler and Wheatland) and municipal districts (Acadia and Bighorn), as well as the Special Areas Board. The general area of this district lies between north of Calgary and south of Wetaskiwin.
Board members help govern and direct the RMA, review operational plans, set policy, represent rural interests and priorities, bring forward concerns from districts and respond to emerging issues, among other responsibilities. Link will serve a one-year term, replacing Paul McLaughlin, reeve of Ponoka County, who was elected as the new RMA president.
While Link’s presence on the board has no costs or other direct impacts to Wheatland County ratepayers, there are potential upsides for them, said Link.
“There are indirect benefits in terms of having a voice and connection with provincial and federal government, as well as increased networking and collaboration opportunities,” she said.
Twice a year, the organization holds a session where municipalities bring forward resolutions for consideration of the RMA. These resolutions are crucial to RMA’s advocacy efforts, noted Link.
“They allow us to have a direct role in the advocacy process by identifying priority issues that require action by other levels of government,” she said. “The RMA uses resolutions to guide our advocacy positions and the issues we prioritize when working with other levels of government or stakeholders.”
This fall, 21 resolutions were considered, of which 18 were accepted. The resolutions span a range of topics, viewable through the RMA’s website (rmalberta.com). Resolutions are typically directed toward the provincial or federal government, to seek changes to legislation, regulations or policy, address funding or program issues, or encourage alternative policy approaches related to a specific rural municipal issue or concern, explained Link.
“We also need a strong voice to make the rural perspective on important issues like crime and connectivity heard,” she said. “We need these realities known and understood so we can work on solutions – not just to keep our rural communities sustainable, but to make us competitive and thrive.”
One of the top priorities for advocacy will be for a legislative mechanism to enforce the collection of municipal tax from the oil and gas sector.
“The significant investments that rural municipalities make in critical infrastructure that supports industry needs to be considered,” she said. “Specific sector viability cannot be at the expense of municipal sustainability.”
Accusations that rural municipal spending is not in line with Alberta’s current economic reality must be confronted, said Link. “We need strong voices countering the misinformation being spread regarding rural municipal spending. It’s important to understand looking at spending on a per capita basis is unreasonable without being cognizant of the significant land mass and transportation network that rural municipalities build and maintain in Alberta.”
The RMA will also be advocating for the role of producers in environmental protection and stewardship. One of the accepted resolutions, brought forth by Wheatland County, advocates for the Alberta Farmland Trust, an initiative to protect agricultural lands through conservation easements.
“We need to be teaching about the net positive environmental impact of our grasslands,” said Link. “We need to talk about the environmental conservation that occurs through the responsible and regenerative practices our ag producers have pioneered.”
Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times