Medicine Hat ratepayer association incorporates, continues to slam city utility and tax rates

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Medicine Hat ratepayer association incorporates, continues to slam city utility and tax rates

April 30, 2024

The Medicine Hat Utilities Ratepayer Association continued to argue the city is ripping off its residents through utility rates and tax increases as the group held a town hall Tuesday marking its formal incorporation.

President Sounantha Boss said the Alberta certificate of incorporation lends more legitimacy to the organization and allows it to continue the work it started last summer as a grassroots organization.

“The Medicine Hat Utilities Ratepayer Association will now more actively move forward to advocate on your behalf for affordability and accountability from our city,” Boss said in a presentation to about 80 people in the Grandstand Banquet Room.

Its new corporation status also allows the ratepayer association — or MHURA — to sell its $10 memberships and focus on growth in the coming year, its leaders said.

“We’re going to be focused on just getting the word out to people…to have more people engaged and knowing what’s happening,” Boss told reporters after the meeting.

Like MHURA’s last town hall, Boss gave a presentation outlining the association’s calls for council to remove the municipal consent access fee and criticized property tax increases.

A 4.4 per cent residential tax increase and 4.2 non-residential tax increase were both confirmed by council on April 22, after a four per cent increase was approved in an mid-cycle budget update in late 2023.

While the January MHURA town hall had an open question period that veered off-topic and often delved into misinformation, the association on Tuesday had a more organized approach.

Along with Boss’s presentation outlining the questions it had for the city over its utility and tax rates, MHURA only allowed submitted questions from attendees it said it would follow up on.

The meeting took place amid tension at city hall where Mayor Linnsie Clark had her powers taken away and her salary cut in half.

Boss told reporters a divided council could have been part of the reason why relief in summer 2023 for skyrocketing electricity rates took as long as it did to get in place.

tense exchange between Clark and City Manager Ann Mitchell used as the basis for sanctioning the mayor occurred during a meeting in late August, two weeks before council approved a $33-million utility relief package.

“It’s like a high school drama that has taken over our city, nothing that you would expect at all coming from this council,” she said.

“That could be part of the reason why the utilities just went over their heads because they’re infighting, they’re not focusing on the community.”

However, Boss said she has not signed a community petition calling on council to reverse the sanctions on the mayor, claiming neutrality.

Boss didn’t rule out MHURA getting involved in the next municipal election, saying the organization would support candidates that believe in affordability, accountability, low utility costs and low taxes.

“We’ll support you but you’re going to sign a pledge,” she said, explaining it’d be a way for the association to hold the candidates to their promises.

The next municipal election is slated for next fall, when Hatters will have the chance to consider potential incumbents and new candidates running for office.

Boss confirmed to reporters that members of council were still invited. One of the pillars of the association includes working with the city’s elected leadership.

Just behind her was a cartoon MHURA commissioned depicting what she described as chaos at city hall.

No members of council or an identified representative were present at the town hall Tuesday night.

For now, MHURA is focused on engaging the community and growing its membership as a more formal corporation.

by Eli J. Ridder | @EliRidder

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