Small rural communities often feel short-changed when the provincial government is doling out funding to address local issues.

However, seniors and municipalities in the Falher-McLennan region are celebrating funding of almost $287,000 to enhance seniors’ transportation in the Smoky River region.

A grant of $286,933 to the M.D. of Smoky River announced Nov. 16 will help improve service for the Smoky River Transportation program operated by the Smoky River Family and Community Support Services (FCSS).

The region has a high population of seniors – and many of them don’t drive vehicles – or find it difficult to drive, especially in winter when road conditions are poor.

So, it’s important that regions like Smoky River have public transportation for seniors to get around to various appointments and continue to live an active life.

A transportation service for seniors has been operating in the region for about 20 years with one van that can carry about 15 passengers.

Although details of how the funding will be used weren’t released to the media at this point, it appears the need for seniors transportation has grown.

If rural regions with small – and declining populations – want to survive and be sustainable, it’s important for neighbouring municipalities to work together.

The provincial government wants municipalities in a region to work together on partnership programs and projects.

Out in the east, provincial funding of $730,000 was announced Nov. 14 for the Town of Slave Lake to operate and develop a new year-round emergency shelter for the homeless in the area.

Communities like Slave Lake have been dealing with homeless people for many years.

High Prairie and Peace River also struggle with homeless people.

Many residents and municipal councils in those municipalities are probably wondering when some funding for a homeless shelter will come their way.

Town of Slave Lake Mayor Francesca Ward lauded Lesser Slave Lake MLA Scott Sinclair, who was elected May 29.

In the government news release, she said the shelter would not be possible without the hard work of town staff, Sinclair and Seniors, Community and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon.

If municipalities and community groups want funding for local projects and programs, it’s vital to lobby the MLA and the minister responsible. It worked for Slave Lake and it worked to re-open the Winagami Lake Provincial Park wading pool in August.

Former MLA and cabinet minister Hector Goudreau gave Big Lakes County council some advice at a council meeting several years ago when he was asked about the best way to lobby the local MLA and government.

Be persistent and never give up!

by Richard Froese

This item copyrighted by / South Peace News   High Prairie, Alberta

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