Wood Buffalo Council became very active in Tuesday’s meeting when the proposed Sustaining Grant Allocation came up for the Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation.
They were seeking roughly $4.5 million to be funded from the Emerging Issues Reserve for 2022.
Mayor Sandy Bowman described their functionality as bringing education and awareness to regions outside of Wood Buffalo for economic development or tourism.
Councillor Keith McGrath showed early on that he was not happy with how things were operating.
McGrath referred to last year when Empire announced they were opening a FreshCo downtown and that he had not seen any representation from the Economic Development team.
President and Chief Executive Officer for Economic Development Kevin Weidlich responded that they were not contacted or asked to be a part of that opening.
Councillor Funky Banjoko later inquired about the nearly $3 million in yearly salaries for 18 people, commenting that it seemed very high.
Weidlich said that money also covered the wages of temporary workers and summer students as well. He said that the documents did not properly show that information.
Councillors made comments that residents had been telling them to “shut them down” due to not seeing any results.
Weidlich responded that what they do is difficult to quantify because there aren’t “bricks and mortar” that the public can visibly see.
In an interview on Wednesday, Bowman commented, “we need economic development at the end of the day. There’s a lot of good work that’s been done. It may not all have been seen.”
Council brought forward the question of reducing what they were spending and giving the team less money.
Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation Chair Gregg Saretsky said that they can’t run without the full amount and that if they didn’t get it, they would pull out.
The motion was defeated with a tied vote 5-5
Councillor Jane Stroud was not in attendance.
The CAO and Administration will go back to the council with a plan to move forward.