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Provincial budget cuts 'shock to the system' for Banff

Important social programs in Banff are facing potential funding cuts as a result of the UCP's 2019 provincial budget
Town of Banff
Banff town hall. RMO FILE PHOTO

BANFF – Future funding of important social services programs in Banff is up in the air due to cuts in the United Conservative Party’s provincial budget.

The province has given the Town of Banff notice that a $22,000 grant tied to the Early Childhood Development Program for toddlers and young kids and a $46,000 grant for the Family Wellness Program aimed at children, youth and parents both end on March 31, 2020.

That’s on top of the news that Alberta Children’s Services also terminated a $490,000 contract effective March 31 for Bow Valley Parent Link, a multi-municipal program led by the Town of Canmore, with a satellite drop-in location in Banff.

Banff Councillor Corrie DiManno said the potential implications of the provincial budget have been a “bit of a shock to the system.”

“We know these are important services to our residents,” said DiManno during the Nov. 12 governance and finance committee.

A $46,000 Child and Family Services Authority prevention grant supports Banff’s Family Wellness Program.

That funding is tied to programs such as Roots of Empathy, the Banff Mentor Program and prevention courses for parents and children, including bullying prevention.

“The challenge is it is cost shared with some other external grants that were not affected,” said Alison Gerrits, the Town’s director of Community Services, noting the full implications are not yet known.

The other grant is tied to the Early Childhood Development Coalition, a Bow Valley-wide initiative, which includes many events and programs for children aged 0-6.

“The Town of Banff is the fiscal agency on that endeavour, so there is specific funds that come into the municipality to help offset the wages for the individual who coordinates that,” said Gerrits.

As For Parent Link, Gerrits said the Town of Banff has been a partner in the multi-municipality Bow Valley program since its inception in 2007.

“The Town of Canmore is currently, and has been since it started, the fiscal agent for that program,” said Gerrits.

“There’s a satellite office in Banff that will be affected and the programming as such will be affected there.”

For Parent Link, the province is adopting a new service delivery model.

Gerrits said the municipalities are working together to see if they can access any new funding opportunity to keep the program going.

“The Town of Banff will be meeting this week with Canmore to discuss the new funding opportunity,” she said.

Kelly Gibson, the Town of Banff’s corporate services director, said options would be presented to council during upcoming service review and budget, such as potentially using some of the 2019 budget surplus. The third quarter year-end financial forecast an unrestricted surplus of $984,620.

“There are a lot of unknowns that we’re facing right now and it’s extremely difficult [with] some of the limited amount of information we’ve got going into a budget year,” he said.

“If we did set aside some budget stabilization funds, that could help council, or comfort council, to know that they could put some of that towards programming.”

Mayor Karen Sorensen said Banff-Airdire MLA Miranda Rosin reached out to her and Canmore Mayor John Borrowman to speak about funding issues such as Parent Link.

Sorensen couldn’t make the meeting because of a previous commitment.

“I said I would definitely be in touch with her in the future if there was any need to meet, which means if we don’t get any money then we need a meeting,” said Sorensen.

“I think at this point it’s important that we let administration and the provincial department do their work without getting too political about it at this point.”

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