A broad and unique regional mutual aid agreement is being examined by the city. After talking with jurisdictions around Northeast Saskatchewan and Northwest Alberta, a final agreement for emergency preparedness and partnership has been drafted.

The process began in February 2018 to work towards a broad area agreement for with municipalities and M├ętis settlements. The final draft was brought before the Governance and Priorities Committee meeting on Monday, May 13, focusing on a number of key principles. Those include no obligation to share resources as a “best effort” agreement between neighbours and establishing cost recovery principles for shared resources.

It also clarifies administrative roles and understandings including indemnification, confidentiality and privacy responsibilities. In total, the agreement includes 54 other communities reaching as far as Fort McMurray and Manitou Lake. Councillor Aaron Buckingham was impressed by the comprehensive document and how inclusive it is of other emergency types.

“These mutual aid agreements often times speak to emergency services. This is encompassing a much larger piece of the puzzle, and a much larger piece of land,” says Buckingham.

The agreement includes what many people see as emergency services, such as police forces, ambulances and firefighting personnel. The agreement speaks to what becomes necessary in an emergency and what they might call for, such as road crews or IT professionals, to be sent or received by partnering communities. Buckingham agrees that it’s a good step towards cooperation and commends the city’s administration for the work they’ve put into it.

“It’s a good first step, and it’s an onerous step. If you look at the number of communities we’ve been reaching out to as a city to try and put this together, that’s no small feet.”

Mayor Gerald Aalbers agrees that the agreement is quite broad. He spoke in the meeting that some examples of supplying aid could include supplying the city’s two graders to assist in fire fighting efforts. Aalbers believes it presents a great opportunity to help others in our region while also allowing us to receive help when needed.

“There are so many different examples. But on the same side, having that many people to call with resources to help us when we need makes me feel a lot more comfortable sitting in the role as mayor, because we can call on a lot of friends,” says Aalbers.

The agreement wouldn’t affect any current agreement the city has with neighbouring jurisdictions. It’s open for other municipalities to sign on to and may take several years to implement once ratified with each partnering community.