City concerned big city charters will put Red Deer at a disadvantage

  • Oct. 6, 2016 2:33 p.m.

Following membership approval of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) official response to the Government of Alberta on the Municipal Government Act (MGA) amendments, the City of Red Deer is again reiterating concern with the big city charters for Edmonton and Calgary.

“As the third largest city, the City of Red Deer has continued to express concern about the charter process and what they mean for our community and other regional hub cities in Alberta.” said Mayor Tara Veer. “Through these charters, Calgary and Edmonton will have distinct rights from the rest of the province. Locally, we face the same social, economic and environmental challenges as the larger centres and being left out of the charter process puts Red Deer at a competitive disadvantage.”

In the time since AUMA made their submission to the government, the province released additional information on the proposed big city charters for Calgary and Edmonton. A city charter is a legislative tool that gives cities, specifically Edmonton and Calgary, greater flexibility and authority. It is intended to cover a range of issues from simple administrative efficiencies to complex regulatory changes and will grant powers outside of the MGA or other legislation. The City of Red Deer has been concerned about these charters since they were first introduced by the provincial government in 2014.

“We understand the charters will provide greater autonomy and additional fiscal levers to Edmonton and Calgary for such things as public transit or affordable housing,” said Veer. “Red Deer has previously indicated to the Government of Alberta that, depending on what the charters contain, we may request a similar legislative framework to address the challenges we face as a regional hub city.”

It is challenging to assess the impacts without the charters being complete; however, the latest information from the Government of Alberta validates concerns that this legislation will isolate Red Deer and put us at a competitive disadvantage. The City of Red Deer will continue to advocate on this issue.

In AUMA’s submission on the proposed MGA amendments, there are two areas of particular interest that were in our formal policy paper to the province but not in the AUMA response. These are the provision of high school sites in communities, and the sections of proposed changes in the MGA on regional planning and cooperation through the development of Intermunicipal Development Plans (IDP) and Intercollaboration Frameworks (ICF).

High school sites are requiring larger parcels of land than The City currently has available using Municipal Reserve and this issue is not addressed in the proposed legislation.

“Through a resolution approved at the 2015 AUMA conference, The City of Red Deer clearly outlined concerns regarding the size of high school sites,” said Mayor Veer. “We will continue to advocate that high school sites be treated differently than other school types due to the size requirements.”

As a regional hub and mid-sized city, Red Deer is in a unique position regarding municipal intercollaboration. The City of Red Deer has a long history of working collaboratively with our region through our IDP and we want to continue building on this success. As well, the City of Red Deer provides many services, including transit and ambulance dispatch, as a contracted services provider outside of our boundaries.

“Red Deer has a very progressive and effective IDP with Red Deer County that has been foundational to the relationships in our region,” said Veer. “The City supports regional collaboration, and as a regional hub it is important we have the flexibility to use ICFs or service contracts in providing services in our area.”

– Fawcett