Skip to content

Innisfail's mayor angry over UCP's broken facility funding promise

Funding total for new recreation program in budget 2024 reduced by 50 per cent, leaving Innisfail officials discouraged for the future of the $28.5-million aquatic centre
Innisfail mayor Jean Barclay volunteering at a recent community event with other members of town council. Barclay is "extremely" disappointed with the provincial government's Budget 2024 funding reduction for its new Community Recreation Centre Infrastructure Fund. Johnnie Bachusky/MVP Staff

INNISFAIL – It was shortly before the provincial election in 2023 when the UCP unveiled a plan to bring in a new four-year, $80-million program to help fund community recreation facilities for mid-sized towns.

The Government of Alberta’s 2024-25 budget released on Feb. 29 has cut that promise by about 50 per cent.

Instead, the new Community Recreation Centre Infrastructure Fund (CRCIF) is offered as a $30-million program over three years.

With the future of Innisfail’s planned $28.5 million aquatic centre already in doubt, Town of Innisfail Mayor Jean Barclay is not happy with the change made by the UCP government.

“It’s extremely disappointing. I hear the phrase equitable funding a lot,” noted Barclay immediately following the dropping of the 2024-25 budget on Feb. 29. “I see Calgary receiving $330 million above their LGFF funding for a new arena, and that $330 million also includes 50 per cent capital cost of a community rink.

“So, I'm curious where the equitable funding is for other communities, especially communities the size of Innisfail, the mid-sized towns.”

The mayor said she put a question to Ric McIver, provincial minister of municipal affairs, about the CRCIF during an online elected officials meeting with the minister on March 1.

“There wasn't really an answer other than it was the federal government not sending enough money to the province to be able to fund this program,” said Barclay.” And he would pass on my comments over to the ministry of tourism and sport.”

The Albertan contacted the Ministry of Tourism and Sport for a comment on the reduced CRCIF funding.

A spokesperson replied with a comment but no reason was offered for the program’s funding reduction from last May’s original announcement.

“If Budget 2024 is passed, $30 million over the next three years will be allocated to the Community and Recreation Centre Infrastructure Program, Alberta’s first grant program that is solely dedicated to funding sport and recreation infrastructure,” said the ministry spokesperson. “This is just the first year of the program, and the Department of Tourism and Sport will evaluate program demand and analyze what, if any additional funding, may be required in future provincial budgets.

“Municipalities can apply to use their funding from the Local Government Fiscal Framework to help finance their local infrastructure priorities.”

Barclay said the reduced funding option in the UCP’s 2024 budget makes it “very clear” that town council and administration needs to “take a hard look” – including options - for the future of the aquatic centre project when council meets for a special strategic meeting in early April.

“I think we have to look at that a little more seriously now that we have seen the funding that's available over the next three years from this new recreation infrastructure program,” said Barclay. “We need to have a serious discussion about the path that we're going to take.”

In the meantime, Barclay planned on attending an online meeting hosted by Alberta Municipalities (ABmunis) on March 1, a meeting that will include representatives from scores of other municipalities to talk about the impact of Budget 2024.

Immediately after Budget 2024 was released ABmunis issued a statement to the media that it was “extremely discouraged” by the amount of funding the Government of Alberta has allocated towards tackling the province’s $30 billion municipal infrastructure deficit.

“The $722 million in funding allocated to the Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF) in the provincial government’s 2024-25 falls far short of what is needed to address current infrastructure needs,” said the statement. “The Government of Alberta had an opportunity, through its 2024-25 budget, to allocate more funding to the LGFF and start tackling Alberta’s infrastructure problems in a more systematic, planned and transparent way. It was a chance to invest now in Albertans’ futures.

“By not increasing LGFF capital funding and increasing provincial education property taxes by $230 million (9.1 per cent), the provincial government continues double-downloading the tax burden onto municipal governments and property owners.”

Barclay said she was aware of ABmunis’ immediate reaction to Budget 2024, adding municipalities must continue its advocacy.

“I guess we just need to keep advocating and keep telling our stories and collect our data and ensure we are getting the message out and making other levels of  government understand the challenges that we face,” said Barclay.


Johnnie Bachusky

About the Author: Johnnie Bachusky

Read more


push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks