During a regular Town of Picture Butte council meeting held Dec. 8, council discussed the option of renewing the town’s bylaw enforcement officer contract with the Town of Coalhurst.
“They just suggested a 2.5 per cent rate increase, which is inflationary. They’re also on board with the Coaldale regional partnership. If that comes into effect, this obviously would no longer be in effect. It may not last the whole year,” said Mike Derricott, the town’s chief administrative officer (CAO).
“Administration is recommending we extend this for the year and then we’ll see how the regional program goes,” he added. The motion was passed to extend the contract.
Town of Picture Butte Mayor Wendy Jones submitted a Mayor’s Report to town council at a regular meeting held Dec. 8. Jones noted she attended a Mayors and Reeves meeting earlier this month.
According to Jones, the mayors and reeves group now has two Members of Parliament (MPs), five Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) and 42 different mayors and reeves.
Jones said one of the items she wanted to bring up to council was the group sent a letter to Diana McQueen, Alberta minister of municipal affairs, regarding how municipalities are getting hit with a 3-4 per cent increase for the Chinook Arch Regional Library System every year and the province puts in nothing towards the fees.
“We feel it should not be up to the municipalities to foot the bill on all of this,” said Jones, as Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Mike Derricott noted to council the province is still making a contribution but is not increasing their funding. “The increase goes to the small municipalities every year. Whether this will help or not — but a letter was sent Nov. 19,” Jones added.
Jones mentioned MPs are still being drilled on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.
“It is a huge problem in Lethbridge. They still don’t have total answers but they say they’re working on it,” said Jones.
Jones said one of the members of the mayors and reeves group suggested maybe the Alberta government could start hiring some of the temporary workers to help eliminate a 3-5 year backlog.
“Some of it is 3-4 years they say and that’s the problem,” she noted.
Derricott added he thinks what is happening is one of the main flaws with the program is there is a Temporary Foreign Worker Program but workers are being used as a permanent or semi-permanent workforce. “This was never going to be sustainable. It’s just come to a head a lot quicker then was expected and they’re trying to close some loopholes and create some ways to make this fit what the program actually contained, which was ‘we need to get in some people here who will do this kind of work and fill these roles that are tough to fill,’” said Derricott, adding he hopes they will do a serious revamp and the government is doing interim things.
Coun. Joe Watson said he believes it is more the employers than the temporary employees abusing the system.
“From what I’m hearing is politically it’s easier to attack the poor foreign worker than it is to attack the companies that are abusing it because they’re still voters” said Watson, adding he believes the government needs to come up with a way of quietly coming through the back door to straighten out a few of the abusers of the program.
Interestingly enough, Mayor Jones said, the other item that came up at the mayors and reeves meeting was doctors in small municipalities.
“They’re having problems recruiting doctors but some of them are very upset because it appears like Alberta Health Services (AHS) gives huge signing bonuses to doctors in bigger centres,” said Jones.
She added there’s a lot of controversy.