Skip to content

MD of Bighorn rolls out fee assistance program for locals

The program offers financial support to MD residents facing financial barriers to partake in leisure and learning opportunities offered within the MD of Bighorn and neighbouring jurisdictions.

MD OF BIGHORN – The MD of Bighorn has approved a fee assistance program to aid eligible residents in accessing educational, recreational and cultural programs at a lower cost.

The program offers financial support to MD residents facing financial barriers to partake in leisure and learning opportunities offered within the MD of Bighorn and neighbouring jurisdictions.

“I think this was kind of exciting to see come forward,” said Coun. Alice James.

“I was kind of wondering about the affordability measure level and I was wondering where that level comes from and if we feel it’s adequate in our municipality.”

For a household with one resident, household income must be $40,000 or lower to qualify for the program. For a household with two residents, income must be $50,000 or lower, for three residents it’s $60,000, for four residents it’s $70,000 and for five-plus residents, it’s $80,000. All residents must have lived in the MD of Bighorn for at least six months prior to applying to the program.

Community services coordinator for the MD of Bighorn Doug Saul said coming up with the affordability structure for the program involved looking at fee assistance programs in other municipalities.

“Basically, these numbers were chosen considering the position of the MD within the Bow [Valley] Corridor and taking into consideration the fact that there wouldn’t be, at this stage anyway, a tier one and tier two. That it would just be one income level to go by,” he said.

“In short ... it’s kind of splitting the difference between tier one and tier two and looking at Banff versus Canmore versus places like Drayton Valley or Red Deer County.”

Both Banff and Canmore have affordability measure cut-offs for two tiers, with the first being for households with lower income and the second for households with higher income.

In Drayton Valley and Red Deer County, affordability assistance programs do not tier, but have a limit of $200 per individual per year and $300 per individual per year, respectively.

Red Deer County also requires an applicant’s household income be less than 200 per cent of the Canada low income cut-off, which ranges from a minimum necessary income of $27,514 for a single-person household and $72,814 for a household with seven people.

The MD’s program proposes an affordability structure along with a limit of $250 per individual per year towards the costs of eligible registration fees for recreational, educational and cultural classes, courses or programs approved by the MD, while funds are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Bighorn’s community services budget is supporting the first year of the fee assistance program with $5,000. It also comes with a limitation of a maximum of 10 per cent of the program’s available budget per household to ensure fair distribution of funding.

Applicants must also apply for the fee assistance program before registering for a class or course to confirm it is eligible and approved by the MD. Classes, courses or programs must have a minimum fee of $90 or more to qualify.

“The neat thing about this program, as far as I’m reading it, is that it’s not just selected to families and children but that it’s selected to individuals, so it could be an elderly person wanting to get out and wanting to participate in a program and maybe being in retirement and being able to access programs,” said James.

She questioned eligibility requirements of different levels of income, however, especially for renters or people unable to afford homes and whether they would qualify.

“I may be incorrect on that. On one hand, I think these numbers look fine, but I wonder what is the median basis and where do we fit in being able to provide these things,” she said.

By comparison, a single-person household in Banff has an income eligibility cut-off of $35,768 under tier one, whereas Canmore has a cut-off in the same category of $37,818.

Saul suggested the affordability structure could be revisited in future years of the program to determine if it should be readjusted and potentially allow more residents to qualify.

“For instance, I don’t know about Banff – I suspect it’s the same – but I know Canmore didn’t start with tier one and tier two, they started with just tier one and, inferring from what they did, they may have found there were some families that had a higher income but still had difficulty affording as many programs as they really felt were going to be great for their family, so they established tier two afterwards,” he said.

The change in Canmore’s program came last May and involved evaluating data from the program between 2017-20, with the Town having heard from higher-income people in Canmore that they weren’t eligible but still had a need.

An application form for the fee assistance program can be accessed on the MD of Bighorn’s website at

The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. The position covers Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda First Nation and Kananaskis Country.

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