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RMWB Council to boost for Frontier in Ottawa

PHOTO. RMWB Council meets at the Syncrude Athletic Park Clubhouse on Feb. 11, 2020. MYMCMURRAY/Phil Wood.

Mayor and Councillors voted unanimously to support the Advocacy Initiative for Teck Resources’ Frontier Mine project.

Protests over the project emerged across the country in recent weeks over its perceived environmental impacts.

However, an intergovernmental panel said the mine is in the public interest.

The federal cabinet must decide on Teck by the end of February.

Local reaction

RMWB Council passed a motion to advocate for Frontier before the federal government.

Mayor Don Scott will write a letter to the federal cabinet requesting its approval and outlining its benefits to Wood Buffalo.

Since the public hearing on Frontier in 2018, the Mayor wrote letters and participated in video recordings stating his support.

Also, members of the Council shall form a delegation to speak to the project in Ottawa.

The 2020 Business Travel Budget would accommodate travel costs like lodging, meals, and per diems.

The $20.6-billion mine would spend $219-million annually on contracts and services in the RMWB during its operations.

Over its lifespan, Frontier would pay $12-billion in taxes to Canada, $55-billion to Alberta in taxes and royalties, and $3.5-billion in property taxes to the region.

Frontier would reside about 110 km north of Fort McMurray, nearly 25 km north of Suncor’s Fort Hills project.

Homelessness survey

RMWB Council also accepted a rural homelessness survey as information.

Also, Mayor Don Scott will write the appropriate provincial and federal minister inviting them to see first-hand housing conditions in the rural hamlets.

Supported by the Alberta Rural Development Network (ARDN), the survey counted 256 residents from four rural communities.

Lead analyst Shadi Mehrej said their estimates included Anzac, Fort Chipewyan, Fort McKay, and Janvier.

However, the study only registered 56 respondents between November 2018 and January 2019.

Of those ARDN surveyed, 26 said they experience unstable housing with 22 of them born Métis.

Mehrej added some respondents didn’t answer all of the questions relating to age, employment, or if they identify with a hamlet or reserve.

For example, 15 of 32 respondents said they moved at least once in the last year with 11 saying at least three times.

Although RMWB Council unanimously supported the motion, they expressed some concern over the low turnout.

A separate organization submitted homelessness information on the town of Conklin in 2018.

Councillors hope a subsequent study in the future would flesh out more accurate results.

Mehrej said there is no clear link between respondents and residents, so the survey may have found between 33 to 148 unstable housing residents.

Nevertheless, all agreed there is a housing shortage in the rural communities and a need to increase services in the RMWB.

Mehrej and ARDN recommend labour-intensive surveying such as door-to-door and to tailor questions to ease fears of respondents disclosing sensitive information.

Other notes

Mayor and Councillors approved of a motion to write to the Alberta government to hasten its review of the Rent Supplement Program.

Brought forward by the Advisory Committee on Aging (ACOA), the rent subsidy program assisted 410 households including 22 seniors.

ACOA expects Alberta would cutback on its supplement by 24 per cent over three years.

This would bring the $4.9-million in subsidies the RMWB received during the last fiscal period reduced to $3.7-million.

When Councillors asked about the waitlist for new applicants, ACOA said the province implemented a freeze on approvals.

ACOA and Wood Buffalo Housing estimate the waitlist may be higher than the original 176 applicants, which include 17 seniors from urban and rural areas.


The motion also requests the RMWB meet with Alberta Seniors and Housing Minister Josephine Pon at the upcoming Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) Spring Convention.

Additionally, RMWB Council approved by a 7-2 margin to participate in the 2020 Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) Conference event.

The Administration would work with Sturgeon County on planning the event contributing up to $10,000.

Finally, Mayor and Councillors unanimously approved the inter-municipal development plan (IDP) exemption with Lac La Biche County.

It also approved two inter-municipal collaboration frameworks (ICF) with Improvement District No. 349 and Mackenzie County.