City council endorsed the report regarding the City’s formal response to the Municipal Government Act at this week’s regular meeting.
The report, as endorsed, also provides a basis for advocacy efforts to be undertaken in responding to the amendments and regulations, according to council notes.
On May 31st, the province announced the second round of amendments in Bill 21.
According to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, the purpose of this round of MGA changes (Bill 21) was to enhance partnerships between provinces and municipalities, strengthen accountability mechanisms and increase inter-municipal collaboration.
Also, according to council notes, “The balance of changes proposed to the MGA as part of Bill 21 maintain the progressive aspects of this legislation primarily due to its grounding in natural person powers. Maintaining this foundation is critical in ensuring municipalities continue to be strong partners in the continued prosperity of the province.”
Council heard that given that the province has indicated that any parts of Bill 21 may be changed depending on the feedback received, the City’s advocacy strategy, “Should continue to be outcomes or policy based which will give the City the opportunity to be responsive and nimble to additional changes or opportunities as they present themselves.
“This report would be submitted to Municipal Affairs and to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) as our initial response to Bill 21. It would form the basis of future input and advocacy opportunities.”
The province has been working on amendments to the MGA since 2013.
Lisa Perkins, director of corporate transformation, said that since that time both council and administration have been actively participating in this review via a number of means including completing surveys, meeting with local MLAs, working with mid-sized city colleagues, attending consultation meetings, working with the AUMA and reviewing legislation.
“The revised MGA that is currently proposed aligns relatively well to the eight principles that council has established,” she said. “Writing a piece of legislation that meets the exact needs of any one municipality – Red Deer included – would be a challenging and daunting task for any government given the diversity of the municipalities across the province,” she said.
Overall, there are positive elements of the bill such as the expansion of the off-site levies and a recognition of the importance of regional cooperation among others, she said.
“Offsite levies allow municipalities to recover costs of infrastructure related to development,” she said.
“In Bill 21, their definition of infrastructure related to development has been expanded to include recreation facilities, fire halls and police stations,” she said. “This expansion in the definition for an offsite to include more aspects of development has been a longstanding advocacy position of municipalities across this province,” she said.
Another point she wanted to bring forward was the role of the provincial ombudsman, she said.
“The role of the provincial ombudsman is being expanded to review the administrative fairness of municipal decisions.”
In the spring of 2015 the province announced the first round of changes to the MGA as part of Bill 20.
These amendments included areas that were agreed to by the government, AUMA, AAMDC, and other stakeholders. Regulations on these changes are still being developed.
On May 31st, the government announced the second round of amendments in Bill 21. This bundle was meant to include amendments and changes in policy direction that may not be unanimously supported by those same groups.
Meanwhile, the government’s work on Bill 21 is still ongoing and a revised Bill 21 with amendments will be brought forward this fall.
“This report would be a reference point for comments on the revisions, the big city charters and our input into regulations as they are developed over the next year.
“Overall, the MGA revisions as presented do modernize the Act to provide additional tools for local governments. Administration recommends that this paper, along with the principles previously adopted by council, continue to be the basis of advocacy efforts including submissions to municipal affairs,” said Perkins.
Councillor Paul Harris called the report a touchstone piece of work for the City, “And something we could go back to time and time again.
“I think we should be proud of this and send it to other cities and councils to share with them our principles and the things we are advocating for.”