By Cole Parkinson
As HALO continues to search for sustainable funding, the Municipal District of Taber council is hoping to help push the request further down the line.
During council’s regular meeting on November 27, councillors discussed sending a letter of support to Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman.
“We all acknowledge HALO has been an invaluable service to our area and it is important the province recognizes that in order to provide emergency services and transport, HALO has to be operational. We are grateful for the service STARS provides but HALO fills in where they can’t and accesses areas they are unable to get to. There is concern that if funding isn’t received from Alberta Health Services, they may not be able to maintain their level of service. I would propose we provide this letter to Minister Hoffman so she is aware this is critical and this will change our level of emergency services in southern Alberta,” said Deputy Reeve Tamara Miyanaga.
“We are concerned that an agreement between Alberta Health Services and HALO has not been concluded to date. We understand that without the execution of an acceptable agreement that Rangeland Helicopters which operates the Helicopter Airlift Operation on behalf of HALO may be forced to send the twin-engine BK 117 back because unfunded costs have outstripped their ability to pay. We understand that a deadline of the end of November has been set based upon the finances of both entities. We ask that Alberta Health Services expedite and complete the negotiation process which would result in predictable funding and which would safeguard this important service in southeastern Alberta,” said the draft letter.
Council voiced opinions that were in favour of providing as much support as needed in order to try and secure more funding for the organization. Currently, HALO is funded exclusively through private donations and corporate partners.
“There is some concern that the original person backing HALO is quite tired of funding this. Keep hearing promises and nothing is signed. This has been going on for two years almost since they (the government) first announced they would help. It is amazing what they have been able to do 100 per cent from volunteers,” said Coun. Brian Brewin. “They made the commitment to work together, they just seem to be having a hard time getting the signature on it. Originally it was the helicopters and they got a new helicopter so now they have the ability to fly at night.”
Brewin wasn’t sure why it was taking so long to get the deal done as the need for HALO has been shown since their inception.
“There is no doubt the need is here, I just don’t know why they are balking on getting the contracts done,” he added.
While STARS is also a prevalent organization in the area, the council pointed out HALO wasn’t looking to overtake them in funding.
“I don’t think HALO is asking for anything more than STARS is already receiving. In fact, they aren’t even asking for that much,” said Coun. John Turcato.
A motion was made to send the letter and was passed unanimously. Reeve Merrill Harris was absent from the meeting.