WHEREAS lands held under Provincial Grazing Leases are assessed as farmland and become taxable to the municipality in which the lands are located; and
WHEREAS Provincial Grazing Lease taxes can fall into arrears when the lease is abandoned, revoked, cancelled or expired, there is no recourse by the municipality to collect the amounts owed with the exception of Civil Enforcement (MGA 437, 438); and
WHEREAS the Province has a Grazing Lease Stewardship Code of Practice (December 14, 2007) which outlines roles and responsibilities of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and grazing lease holders1. This Code of Practice does address the grazing lease holders responsibility for upkeep and maintenance of the Provincial Grazing Lease as well as “to pay to the municipal government the property taxes assessed on grazing leases on public lands”2;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Province of Alberta create or improve existing policy for Provincial Grazing Leases to ensure unpaid municipal taxes are paid in full by the Province to the municipality in which they are owed if left unpaid by the lessee.
The County of Grande Prairie assesses taxes owed on Provincial Grazing Leases in accordance with the Municipal Government Act Section 290(3) that from time to time are abandoned, expired, revoked or cancelled. The properties can have outstanding tax debt. The County of Grande Prairie cannot collect on these taxes and has no recourse, other than Civil Enforcement, to do so as the properties are Provincial Grazing Leases on Crown Lands. A municipality cannot apply outstanding amounts to the former tenants other tax rolls, a municipality cannot apply a lien to the property, nor can the municipality obtain ownership of the property or forward the taxes owing onto new tenants.
Grazing Leases are governed by the Public Lands Act and administered by Alberta Sustainable Resource Development Lands Division.
Crown: Her majesty in right of the Province (Crown Lands Act 1989)
Crown Land: All or any part of land under the administration and control of the Minister (Crown Lands Act 1989)
2.Grazing Lease Stewardship Code of Practice, Alberta; Page 11,n.8
The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development: When municipal taxes are left unpaid by the lessee, the Government of Alberta encourages the municipality to contact Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD). This will give the department ample opportunity to use the Public Lands Administration Regulation, which states a disposition holder must pay promptly and regularly as it becomes due and payable, any tax, rate, or assessment that is duly assessed and charged against the holder of a formal disposition or against the subject land.
The ministry may cancel the disposition for non-payment of taxes.
Municipal Affairs: Under the Public Lands Act, Section 107 (community grazing reserve) states, “when the minister is satisfied that the interests of the farmers or ranchers in any area demand it, the minister may establish, maintain and operate a community grazing reserve”. These community grazing reserves are defined as “provincial grazing reserves” under the Public Lands Administration Regulation, Section 1(1)(r).
As the Crown has an interest in the provincial grazing reserves, Grants in Place of Taxes (GIPOT) are paid on these eligible properties. In 2013/14, GIPOT of approximately $317,600 will have been paid on approximately 2,800 provincial grazing reserve eligible applications to 20 municipalities.
Public lands may also be leased from the province by grazing leaseholders. ESRD administers the grazing leases according to the terms of the lease agreements, the Grazing Lease Stewardship Code of Practice (Code), and the Public Lands Act and associated regulations. The Code identifies that grazing leaseholders are responsible for the payment of municipal taxes on public lands. These leased properties are separate from the properties on which GIPOT are paid.
Stakeholders have an opportunity to provide input into the Municipal Government Act Review on this and other matters in a variety of ways, including regional sessions for municipalities, business, industry and the public in early 2014, and through the website www.mgareview.alberta.ca, which was launched in November 2013. The details for the regional sessions are posted on the website.
The provincial government response highlights the difficulty faced by municipalities in tax collection on public lands leased from the province by grazing leaseholders when such taxes are not paid in full. As there is no expressed intent by the Government of Alberta to create or improve policy as requested in this resolution, the AAMDC has assigned this resolution a status of Intent Not Met status and will continue to advocate on it during the final MGA consultation process in the summer of 2016.