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Small Property Tax Rate Increase Anticipated For Red Deer In 2017


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By Sheldon Spackman

Red Deer City Council is preparing to deliberate next year’s proposed Operating Budget starting January 10th.

After the approval of the 2017 Capital Budget and Ten Year Capital Plan on November 23rd, Council will now turn it’s attention to the $357 million Operating Budget which aims to focus on sustainability for both people and services by keeping tax increases to a minimum while maintaining core services.

Currently, the proposed Operating Budget calls for a 2.51 percent property tax rate increase in 2017, the number City Council will try to wittle down once deliberations take place next month. The two and a half percent property tax rate increase being proposed represents a $3.2 million increase to the Operating Budget, which includes a 1 percent increase for Capital amenities and growth. City officials say this would translate to a roughly $50 increase per year in the municipal portion of a property tax bill on a Red Deer home assessed at $325,000.

In regards to the 2.51 percent starting point for Council next month, Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says “This is the lowest recommended operational budget in about 15 years of City history, Council’s recognition of the current state of our economy.” Veer adds however that despite the lower than normal property tax rate increase being proposed, “there may very well be movement anticipated in that recommended percentage as well.” Veer also points out that in Council’s guidelines regarding the Operating Budget, the currently proposed property tax rate increase of two and a half percent is close to inflation and maintains a Capital Savings Program to relieve the City from having to Debt finance.

City Manager Craig Curtis says “This is the most challenging Budget I’ve worked on since returning to the City. There are huge challenges financially because we’re seeing much less growth, which translates into less Revenue and as we see less Revenue, we’ve also seen a decline in the use of our Transit System and our Recreation, Parks and Culture facilities, so the Revenues from those have also affected this Budget.” As a result, Curtis says one of the key initiatives in the 2017 Operating Budget is to look after the social well-being of our community, so they are recommending that user fees for City facilities remains the same next year, the first time the City has recommended that in many years.

However, Mayor Tara Veer and City Manager Curtis also point out that they are both disappointed that the Province’s new three-year pilot program for a low-income transit pass subsidy for residents in Calgary and Edmonton is currently not extended to other municipalities, making it unfair to Albertans in mid-sized cities such as Red Deer. Curtis says “This is a total inequity. The fact that they have a pilot project stemming from their Big City Charters, that invests millions of dollars in their Transit subsidies, is not fair to those who operate Transit Systems in the middle sized cities.” Mayor Veer adds to those sentiments by saying the mid-sized cities represent close to 900,000 Alberta residents, which means they are being treated inequitably from those in the two larger centres by being less able to participate in their communities or access things like employment and educational opportunities, as well as other community and government resources.

Manager Curtis says their latest survey results indicate roughly 15 percent of Red Deer’s population currently lives below the poverty line, with residents having identified Crime, Transportation and General Municipal Government Services as their top priorities for this Budget. He says it’s important to note that this recommended Budget makes investments in Crime Prevention, Safety and Homelessness, a recognition of some of the Social challenges Red Deer is facing.

Operating Budget debates begin on January 10th and are also slated for January 11th – 13th and on January 16th, 17th and 18th if needed. Red Deerians can learn more about the proposed Operating Budget online and submit feedback until December 22nd. Check out this link for more details:

(Thumbnail provided by the City of Red Deer)

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Putin hosts Xi in the Kremlin with imperial palace pageantry

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, and Chinese President Xi Jinping toast during their dinner at The Palace of the Facets is a building in the Moscow Kremlin, Russia, Tuesday, March 21, 2023. (Pavel Byrkin, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

By Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia and China showcased their “no-limits friendship” on Tuesday during a pomp-laden Kremlin ceremony intended to further cement ties amid the fighting in Ukraine.

After hosting Chinese leader Xi Jinping over a seven-course private dinner for 4 1/2 hours the previous night, Russian President Vladimir Putin greeted him in the old imperial palace for talks involving top officials from both countries.

Xi walked slowly up the opulent red-carpeted staircase of the Grand Kremlin Palace as guards in 19th century-style parade uniforms snapped to attention.

Putin was waiting to greet the Chinese leader in St. George’s hall where walls are covered by white-marble plaques with gold engravings of the names of military units and soldiers awarded the order of St. George, a top military award established by Catherine the Great.

In a tightly choreographed ceremony filled with imperial grandeur, the two leaders entered the huge chandeliered room from opposite sides and shook hands in the middle to the sound of the Russian and Chinese national anthems.

They walked past a lineup of Russian and Chinese officials to sit down for talks. Putin and Xi both wore black suits and dark red ties.

The pageantry reflected the importance of Xi’s three-day visit to Russia that gave a strong political boost to Putin just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader on charges of alleged involvement in abductions of thousands of children from Ukraine.

Moscow, which doesn’t recognize the court’s jurisdiction, dismissed the move as “legally null and void,” but the arrest warrant further ramped up the pressure on the Russian leader as the fighting in Ukraine has dragged into a second year.

After the talks, Putin and Xi issued joint declarations pledging to further bolster their “strategic cooperation,” develop cooperation in energy, high-tech industries and other spheres and expand the use of their currencies in mutual trade to reduce dependence on the West.

They said they would develop military cooperation and conduct more joint sea and air patrols, but there was no mention of any prospective Chinese weapons supplies to Russia that the U.S. and other Western allies feared.

Putin and Xi made long statements after the talks to a selected audience of officials and reporters from their pools. They didn’t take questions.

Putin hailed China’s proposals for a political settlement and a cease-fire in Ukraine, saying that it could serve as a basis for a peaceful settlement “once the West and Kyiv are ready for it.” The U.S. has criticized Beijing’s plan as a move intended to allow Russia to shore up its gains.

Putin and Xi wrapped up the day with a state dinner in the 15th-century Palace of Facets that served as a banquet hall for the czars. They again exchanged pledges of expanding the countries’ “comprehensive partnership” at a table next to a frescoed wall before the audience of top officials.

Putin cited a long quote from China’s classical Book of Changes about friendship capable of overcoming any obstacles that the interpreter failed to fully grasp. He raised a glass with a toast wishing good health to Xi and prosperity for the two countries and their peoples, ending it with ‘Ganbei,’ the Chinese equivalent of ‘cheers.’ Xi responded in kind.

After hosting Xi in the Kremlin for six hours, Putin accompanied him down the grand staircase.

“We are now witnessing the changes that haven’t been seen for more than a century, and we are pushing them together,” Xi told Putin through an interpreter as they stood in the Kremlin’s doorway. “Take care, dear friend!”

They shook hands, and Putin stood on the pavement for a moment, waving his hand as Xi’s limo drove away.

Before the Kremlin talks, Xi met with Russian Prime Minister Milkhail Mishustin. Unlike them, Russian and Chinese officials who attended the talks wore medical masks — a reminder of the COVID-19 pandemic that halted mutual visits.

Xi briefly referred to it, telling Mishustin he was happy to be back in Moscow after a long break because of the pandemic. He said that he invited Putin over Monday’s dinner to visit China later this year to attend a top-level meeting of China’s Belt and Road regional initiative.

Kremlin foreign affairs adviser Yuri Ushakov said Putin could make the trip but didn’t give the date.

Xi stayed at a brand-new Chinese-owned Soluxe Hotel set in a lavish riverside park in northern Moscow that features trees and plants from all over China. He used a Chinese-made Hongqi limousine for driving around Moscow.

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Federal Election 2021

Trudeau chief of staff Katie Telford to testify on foreign interference at committee

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Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister Katie Telford arrives to appear as a witness at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa, on Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says a motion to compel his chief of staff to testify about foreign interference at a House of Commons committee will not be a confidence matter. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Ottawa (CP) – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office says his chief of staff, Katie Telford, will testify at a House of Commons committee on the issue of foreign interference in the last two Canadian elections.

The move came Tuesday as Trudeau’s office issued the mandate for special rapporteur David Johnston, giving him until May 23 to recommend whether any additional mechanisms — like a formal public inquiry — are necessary.

Johnston will have until the end of October to complete his review of foreign interference issues and make further recommendations for how the government should proceed.

Trudeau told reporters Tuesday morning that Johnston will have access to all relevant documents, including classified information.

The Liberals’ decision to drop their opposition to having Telford testify at committee made moot a vote planned for Tuesday afternoon on a Conservative motion asking the entire House of Commons to demand her appearance.

Liberal members of Parliament had been filibustering the Procedures and House Affairs committee for several weeks to prevent a similar motion that would compel Telford to appear.

The announcement on Telford’s testimony came moments after NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party would back the Conservative motion if the government didn’t stop filibustering at the committee.

Singh insisted the committee is not the best placed to get to the bottom of the foreign interference problems, and he wants a public inquiry. He said the Liberals and Conservatives are too bent on scoring political points at the committee for it to do the best job.

Trudeau has not heeded the calls for an inquiry thus far, but has said he will listen if Johnston recommends one.

Trudeau appointed Johnston, a former governor general, last week amid allegations Beijing attempted to influence the results of both the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

The government and opposition parties have said those attempts did not compromise the validity of the elections, a contention backed up by the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

But opposition parties have been demanding the government produce more information about what Beijing tried to do, what Trudeau knew about it and what he did about it. They want a full public inquiry but Trudeau instead appointed Johnston to look into the issue and make recommendations.

He has said if Johnston recommends an inquiry he will abide by that.

Trudeau said earlier Monday he wanted the issue of foreign interference to be treated with the seriousness it deserves and accused Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre of turning the matter into a “political circus.”

The Liberals left the door open on Monday to making the vote on the Telford motion a confidence matter, but Trudeau shut that door firmly Tuesday morning.

“No, it’s not going to be a confidence motion,” he said, prior to the Liberal cabinet meeting.

“Obviously, it goes to how important the issue of foreign interference is, and I’m actually pleased to contrast the approach that we’ve taken.”

He said the process the Liberals are following “is an expert process that will dig into this in a nonpartisan way.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.

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