Redford government promises budget won't penalize cities

Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths is promising this spring's budget won't be balanced on the backs of municipalities.

Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths is promising this spring's budget won't be balanced on the backs of municipalities.

Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths speaks to media after meeting with municipalities. (CBC)

Doug Griffiths says in years past it was easy when the budget got squeezed to cut grants to municipalities in order to focus dollars on health and education.

But he told a gathering of municipal leaders in Edmonton today that such a plan is ultimately self-defeating because towns and cities face the same growth pressures as the province.

Edmonton Coun. Linda Sloan, president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, said while Griffiths' message is encouraging, there is still a lot of catching up to do.

"We've tried to stress that municipalities have been taking less for probably the last two decades and as a result of that we have a very large infrastructure deficit that's only going to get worse if it's not funded adequately," she said.

Municipalities are contining to press the government for a long-term funding plan, Sloan said.

Wildrose party Leader Danielle Smith says her party is proposing a 10-year plan that would make sure municipalities are paid first before money is allotted for hospitals, roads and schools.

Liberal critic Laurie Blakeman says Griffiths' department is failing because it tries to be all things to all municipalities, and fails to recognize the critical infrastructure deficits in the major centres.

Earlier this week, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi accused the province of treating Calgary like a minor league player in politics because of the way it deals with the city.

It turned into a war of words between Nenshi and Griffiths related to the drafting of a city charter for Calgary and the ratification of the Calgary Metropolitan Plan.

Nenshi repeated his call for Premier Alison Redford to step in for Griffiths, whom Nenshi says is mishandling his portfolio.

Griffiths shot back saying Nenshi thinks he's always right and is puffing up like a peacock because it's an election year.

With files from Canadian Press