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WHEREAS the Government of Alberta regulates the registry industry through the Registry Agents’ Regulation by capping the fee amounts (as per Registry Agent Product Catalogue. Jan. 8, 2017, Alberta Government) for the largest volume of services provided by the Alberta registry agents, but these fees have not been adjusted in 11 years to reflect increases to the minimum wage or cost of living and inflationary increases in Alberta; and
WHEREAS Alberta registry agents offer essential professional, personalized, and secure over-the-counter and online services to clients near their homes, a fact of significant importance to aging rural Alberta clients with distance restricted driver’s licences and/or without the ability to use the internet; and
WHEREAS registry agents are eager to develop a modernization plan to enhance services to Albertans in conjunction with Service Alberta and other stakeholders;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request that the Government of Alberta recognize the vital role of Alberta registry agents in the delivery of essential government services to all Albertans; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Government of Alberta recognize the positive impact in rural Alberta communities, and work to strengthen their partnership with the Association of Alberta Registry Agents and local municipalities by:
Alberta registry agents have been the authorized delivery channel for over 200 products and services on behalf of four government departments – Service Alberta, Justice, Health, and Transportation – for the past 22 years. There are 206 agents located in 150 Alberta communities (32 or 21% are in large urban centers and 118 or 79% are in rural and small urban jurisdictions).
Agents have been offering online registry services to Albertans for over 10 years through their association with the Alberta Association of Registry Agents (AARA).
Importance to Albertans
Virtually every city and town has an authorized registry agent, forming a network that collectively employs close to 1500 Albertans. Registry staff are qualified, trained, and certified to meet high customer expectations. Registry agents have continued to invest in the industry to meet new technology requirements, population growth, etc. The industry is prepared to and needs to continue to modernize and expand online services to keep pace with market, economic, and political conditions.
Albertans themselves value access to in-person registry services. 92% indicated it was important to have access to government services in their communities and over 90% of Albertans felt that it would have a negative impact on their communities if their local registry agent were to close.
Importance to Independent Registry Agents
A healthy registry agent network is best positioned to serve the diverse needs of all Albertans. A sense of financial stability with long-term assurance of sustainability underpins the agents’ ability to make solid business decisions. Registry agents have not received a much-needed capped fee increase in 11 years. This fact limits agents from keeping pace with cost of living increases and the ever-changing world we live in, and threatens the ability for rural registry agents to keep their doors open.
A collection of a sample of financial statements from rural agents the end of 2015 shows that the average rural agent is losing just over $4,000 annually by providing registry services. Registry agent fees have not been adjusted since 2005.
Importance to the AARA
The AARA provides important member services that improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the registry agent network and, by doing so, improves service to all Albertans. These services are dependent on a portion of the revenue derived from online registry services.
Importance to Service Alberta
Having a secure healthy private network to be the delivery of Government Services in each community is key to the ease of access for Albertans. The health of the registry agent network is threatened if they are kept out of online service delivery and agents cannot earn revenue from these high-volume services.
AARA Modernization Plan and requests
AARA seeks government’s support in modernizing the registry agent industry, expanding online services to Albertans through the registry agent network, and ensuring the long-term sustainability of rural registry agents, including a fair and equitable fee model.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
The Alberta registry services delivery model has largely remained unchanged since 1993, despite significant changes in the way citizens, governments, and businesses conduct transactions. Albertans have told us they want access to government services how, where and when they want.
To do this, SA is committed to improving Albertans’ access to registry services through innovative service delivery methods and technology. Whether online or in the communities where they live, Albertans are looking for easy, secure, and affordable ways to access registry services.
SA recognizes that registry services are vital to the day-to-day activities of all Albertans, and that registry agents are woven into the fabric of the communities they serve. As Alberta’s registry needs evolve, the ministry will continue to listen to stakeholders to ensure that the modernization of registry service delivery proceeds in the best interest of Albertans. Discussions with key stakeholders such as the Association of Alberta Registry Agents, and the Alberta Motor Association about the future modernization of the registry service delivery system are important and will continue to occur.
SA also recognizes any future modernization of Alberta registry agents will be done with the core principle that access to in-person registry services in rural Alberta are essential, and must be preserved.
Registry agents earn revenue from service charges paid by Albertans to obtain GOA products and services. In some cases (e.g. driver’s licenses, vehicle registration renewals, driver’s knowledge tests, etc.), these service charges are regulated with a maximum the agent is allowed to charge. In other cases (e.g. driver’s abstracts, birth certificates, corporate registrations, etc.), the service charge is not regulated by government and agents can determine the amount they charge.
The Government of Alberta response includes recognition of the vital role that registry agents play in supporting the quality of life of Albertans.
RMA appreciates the Government of Alberta’s prioritization of maintaining access to in-person registry services during any modernization process. In a March 2018 meeting with RMA, the Minister of Service Alberta explained that from the Government of Alberta’s perspective, the resolution’s request to allow specific registry agents to provide online services was impractical and would lead to prohibitively high registry fees. According to the Minister, the current system in which online services are centrally managed by the Government of Alberta and the Alberta Association of Registry Agents is the system best-suited to support the sustainability of independent registry agents in providing in-person services, while keeping registry fees manageable for Albertans.
This resolution is assigned a status of Accepted in Part, and RMA will continue to advocate on this issue.