WHEREAS local officers and officials of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) have substantial local autonomy to approve, modify, impede, or deny elements of economic development; and
WHEREAS seeking to modify or repeal an ESRD determination can be a long, costly, time consuming, and convoluted process; and
WHEREAS substantial delays in many types of economic development projects is equivalent to outright killing the project, and often represents a major negative factor impacting the creation of jobs and economic growth;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties calls upon the Government of Alberta to establish a swift, easily accessed, citizen friendly and low cost appeals and modification mechanism that allows for impartial 3rd party adjudication, review and modification of Sustainable Resource Development directives, and that Alberta municipalities be granted input into and ultimately representation upon, these newly established adjudicating tribunals.
The process to appeal and modify a local ruling by Sustainable Resource Development is long and torturous, requiring that many levels within the Sustainable Resource Development administrative structure be engaged, and ultimately often requires political intervention. Because of this, there is, as a practical matter, no ability to appeal “smaller” but none the less costly decisions by local Sustainable Resource Development Officials.
There is no logic to spend dozens of hours or tens of thousands of dollars to appeal a decision worth somewhat smaller amounts. Because of this, as a practical matter, there is no appeal to many Sustainable Resource Development decisions. In a democratic society, every decision of government should have an appeals mechanism – as citizens we have an absolute right to our “Day in Court”no matter how big or small the issue. The complexity and cost associated with trying to revise or revoke a Sustainable Resource Development decision effectively denies to us this right with respect to many Sustainable Resource Development decisions.
The resolution calls for our democratic right to appeal the decisions of our government to be restored with respect to Sustainable Resource Development by putting in place an appeals mechanism that is accessible, affordable and effective.
The AAMDC has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development is responsible for a broad range of applications in issuing approvals across its media (air, land, water, biodiversity, timber). There are many factors established in application processes, and decision makers have delegated legislative authority to make decisions.
Once a decision is made, there are many appeal processes, both statutory and less formal, across legislation and programs. For example, statutory appeals are available under the Water Act, Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, Public Lands Act, Surface Rights Act, Climate Change and Emissions Act, and Alberta Land Stewardship Act. Formal appeal boards established within or at arm’s length to the ministry are the:
The Government of Alberta also recently established the Property Rights Advocate to work with Albertans to provide them with impartial and independent information to deal with issues that could affect their property rights and help them find the appropriate resolution mechanisms when disputes arise.
All legislation that offer formal and statutory appeal processes will have various rules, applications, approaches, timelines, and governance. Appeal boards strive toward efficient appeal processes as much as reasonably possible, but are also bound by legislative provisions and processes themselves.
The Government’s response highlights the existing appeal boards related to Environment and Sustainable Resource Development that are currently established to address appeals related to the environment, public land and surface rights. The establishment of the Property Rights Advocate is a positive effort made by the Government of Alberta to provide information and assist in property rights issues, however, this resolution calls for the establishment of a new appeals system that is inclusive of municipal representation. As such, the status of this resolution has been assigned a status of Unsatisfactory and the AAMDC will continue to follow-up on this issue.