WHEREAS the current wording of Sections 102 and 103, subsections 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the Municipal Government Act, enables any municipality to initiate an amalgamation process by simply writing a letter to the Minister of Municipal Affairs; and
WHEREAS the current wording of Sections 102 and 103, subsections 1, 2, 3 and 4 of the Municipal Government Act does not promote any motivation for municipalities to sit down and talk face to face about the prospect of amalgamation; and
WHEREAS the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties has a well-researched report titled Finding Local Solutions: The Impacts of Forced Regionalization, which identifies that forced municipal relationships of any kind are not successful; and
WHEREAS Section 104 of the Municipal Government Act states that the municipal authorities with which the initiating municipal authority proposes to amalgamate must, on receipt of the notice under section 103, meet with the initiating municipal authority to discuss the proposals included in the notice and negotiate the proposals in good faith. There is no requirement for the initiating municipality to also negotiate in good faith;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the Government of Alberta to amend sections 102 and 103, subsections 1,2,3,4 of the Municipal Government Act so as to no longer, enable a single municipality to initiate the process of amalgamation without prior negotiation with the municipal authority affected by the proposed amalgamation;
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the Government to Alberta to also amend Section 104 of the Municipal Government Act so as to give equal responsibility to the initiating municipality to negotiate in good faith.
On September 9, 2014 the County of Barrhead found out via social media that the Town of Barrhead Council, at its meeting held the evening of September 9, 2014, passed a resolution that the Town of Barrhead initiate amalgamation with the County of Barrhead.
The Town of Barrhead sent a letter to Minister of Municipal Affairs Greg Weadick two days later, thus beginning the process of amalgamation. Prior to this we were given no notification from the Town, neither was there discussion with our municipality on the matter. Over the past year there have been informal comments made by some of the Town of Barrhead’s Council Members and staff on amalgamation, and an item in the Town of Barrhead Strategic Plan 2014-2018 which states:
This objective, including the description of the key activities, corresponds with the information on process found in the Alberta Municipal Affairs publication The Amalgamation Process for Alberta Municipalities, which states that “in most cases, representatives from the amalgamating municipalities have discussed the idea to ensure that the parties are interested before the first steps in this legal process occur”. However, the Town of Barrhead did not engage in discussions with the County of Barrhead prior to commencing the legal process of amalgamation with Alberta Municipal Affairs in September 2014.
The ability to initiate the process of amalgamating our two municipalities was done in accordance with Section 102 of the Municipal Government Act (MGA). The County of Barrhead objects to the MGA giving the authority to any municipality to engage another municipality in an amalgamation process without prior discussion taking place between the two parties. According to MGA Section 104(1):
“The municipal authorities with which the initiating municipal authority proposes to amalgamate must, on receipt of the notice under section 103, meet with the initiating municipal authority to discuss the proposals included in the notice and negotiate the proposals in good faith.”
The end result of the amalgamation process is a report to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, who will make a decision on whether to amalgamate the two municipalities, and what conditions to place in the Ministerial Order. In order to arrive at this report, however, there will be many meetings to attend involving both council members and staff, consultants to hire and manage, and public input to gather, involving both meetings and a vote of electors in each municipality. This is a major project, which will likely take more than a year to complete, with considerable expense and effort involved. Thankfully there is provincial funding available for consulting costs, but this provincial funding does not compensate for the time required of our own council and staff.
The County of Barrhead also has concerns that the initiating municipality does not have the same requirement under the MGA to “negotiate the proposals in good faith” as does the municipal authority it proposes to amalgamate with. This is not fair. Each municipality involved in the process must operate under the same legal obligations, with no municipality having an advantage over another.
23-11F: Finding Local Solutions: Examining the Impacts of Forced Regionalization
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that members of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties endorse the position outlined in the paper entitled Finding Local Solutions: Examining the Impacts of Forced Regionalization.
DEVELOPMENTS: The AAMDC presented the final paper entitled Finding Local Solutions: Examining the Impacts of Forced Regionalization to the membership at the Fall 2011 Convention. Notification of the availability of the paper on the AAMDC website has been distributed to members via member bulletin. Based on the completion of this paper, the AAMDC deems the status of this resolution as Accepted.
The study can be accessed online at aamdc.com.
Municipal Affairs: Municipal Affairs is in the process of a comprehensive review of the Municipal Government Act. Extensive consultation took place on the Act throughout much of 2014. A significant variety of issues were raised through the consultation process, including suggestions for revising the amalgamation process.
Municipal Affairs is working with key stakeholders and municipal partners, including the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, to review the issues raised through the consultation process and to identify options for addressing these issues. This resolution will be considered as part of the review process.
As identified in the government response, the AAMDC continues to be involved in the review of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) and the specific issues outlined in this resolution have been brought forward by the AAMDC, and have been emphasized in the AAMDC’s final submission in the summer of 2016.
Although Alberta Municipal Affairs has not able to provide a detailed response due to the confidential nature of the ongoing MGA review process, the AAMDC is encouraged by the Government of Alberta’s willingness to discuss improvements to the amalgamation process. In addition, a previous Minister of Municipal Affairs has voiced concern about a lack of consultation and collaboration among the initiating municipality and other impacted municipalities in recent attempted amalgamations, which is, in part, what this resolution is addressing.
Bill 20: The Municipal Government Amendment Act, which was passed in the spring of 2015, includes new provisions to streamline the amalgamation process when there are two or more municipalities voluntarily amalgamating but it does not change sections 102, 103, or 104 in the manner consistent with the resolution. There is no wording in Bill 20 that requires any prior negotiation nor changes that would require both parties involved in the amalgamation to negotiate in good faith as per the request outlined in the resolution.
A draft regulation on amalgamation is expected in the spring of 2017 and may address some of these concerns.
The AAMDC will continue to advocate that any amalgamation application include the requirement for prior negotiation and the requirement for both sides to negotiate in good faith. The status of this resolution is Intent Not Met.