Original Published 05:00 Apr 06, 2022

By Lacie Nairn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

 After several years of advocating against its mandatory participation in the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB), Wheatland County has been granted ministerial approval from Alberta Municipal Affairs to leave the board.

 Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver announced the decision to allow Wheatland County and the Town of Strathmore to leave the board on Monday, March 28 after discussions with board members; these changes took effect on Thursday, March 31.

 “Wheatland County recognizes the importance of collaboration and has a strong history of building partnerships with our neighbours,” Wheatland County Reeve Amber Link told the Mail.

 The regional board was established as a not-for-profit government corporation in 2018 and each of its 10 member municipalities were mandated by ministerial order to be part of the board. Member municipalities are both urban and rural, including the cities of Calgary and Airdrie, and the counties of Foothills and Rocky View.

 A small portion of Wheatland County-equal to between one-tenth and one-eighth of the county’s total landmass-between Chestermere and Strathmore was included in the CMRB.

 The draft CMRB growth plan was presented to its member municipalities beginning in early 2021 ahead of the submission of a final growth plan in June 2021. 

 This growth plan showed projected growth for each member municipality over a period of 40 to 50 years and was criticized by its rural members, including Wheatland County and Foothills County, for its lack of projected growth for the cost investment to be part of the board.

 Reeve Link shares it cost the county an estimated $165,000 in staff and council time to be part of the board in 2020, which equated to about $184 per resident within the panhandle region. 

 She adds this cost was more than council had budgeted for social and emergency services in the same year.

 She adds, Wheatland County has been prioritizing diversifying its economic base by attracting new businesses-particularly in its West Highway 1 Area Structure Plan, which was within the CMRB boundaries. 

 The additional red tape of being part of the CMRB created extra challenges to an “already lengthy process” and there was some hesitancy from potential developers due to the county’s membership.

 With the county’s exit from the board, staff and council time can now be dedicated to good governance and building relationships with other neighbouring municipalities such as Siksika Nation, the Town of Strathmore, and the villages within the county’s borders.

This item reprinted with permission from The Drumheller Mail, Drumheller, Alberta