Reeve's Message for 2021
As 2020 closes and we prepare and welcome in the New Year, I would like to give a quick recap of the past year.
The year started off like any normal new year, kids going back to school after the holiday break, winter activities going on, sunshine vacations and thoughts of spring starting to stir. During the late months of 2019, we were hearing news reports of a new strain of flu that was hitting Asia and then moving to Europe.
In early March cases of this new flu (Covid-19) were detected in North America and bam, our lives took an abrupt change. Schools closed, businesses closed, entertainment of all types shut down, borders closed, and travel was limited and in general our lives became very different. Fast forward to December and we remain in uncertain times as this pandemic is still very much with us and putting an added strain on the health care system. Science and medical professionals continue to monitor and research this virus and will undoubtedly find a way to manage the control and spread of Covid-19 with vaccines and best practices. It will be a joy and relief when we can put this behind us and return to what was normal a few months ago.
2020 brought many other challenges for residents aside from the pandemic. Spring breakup came with a vengeance and resulted in overland flooding and road damage throughout the county. Many properties along the river flats were also heavily damaged as the river ice broke up and jammed causing more flooding. The situation only got worse as the summer brought unprecedented rains in many areas causing more road washouts and closures. Agriculture land became saturated and flooded and left producers with less than ideal conditions for seeding and many crops that did get seeded soon became stressed. With all the rain the region did become very green looking and pastures and hay land thrived, but many regions were challenged with soft fields that wouldn’t support haying or crop spraying equipment. The bright side to the wet summer is that wildfires were pretty much non-existent in the northwest.
Another concern we continue to monitor is the downturn of the global economy and the trickle-down effect on everyone. The provincial government is constantly reminding us that their deficit is the greatest since the great depression of the 1930s and we all need to shoulder the load for economic recovery. Although not totally clear what this will mean at this moment, it is certain there will be some changes coming. Police funding costs and provincial grant reductions are a couple of the items the County is already preparing for. The sudden closure of many provincial parks was very concerning for area residents and although they were reopened in late June, there still isn’t a clear plan for the coming year and a solution still needs to be found. Another huge threat to municipalities was a review of provincially regulated assessment on oil & gas properties. This Assessment Review Model has the potential to reduce tax revenues substantially and negatively affect the county’s service delivery ability. Municipal leaders across the province lobbied hard and voiced our concerns with our MLAs that this proposed assessment change was unacceptable and not the best way to help a struggling industry. Thankfully, the newly appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs has paused this review and will be revisiting it in 2021 to try find a more balanced model and the county will continue to watch closely.
It certainly has been a year that we will long remember for many reasons. In closing, although we have experienced many difficult challenges and adverse weather this past year, overall, we are fortunate to reside in such a great region! We all look forward to brighter times ahead and will adjust to whatever comes our way.
Reeve, County of Northern Lights
Posted January 5th, 2021