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WHEREAS the Municipal Government Act (MGA) grants limited natural person powers; and
WHEREAS the MGA does not provide municipalities recognition as a government; and
WHEREAS municipalities have no recognition within the constitution; and
WHEREAS municipalities are at the mercy of the province, through continued provincial and federal downloading with no requirement for notification or consultation; and
WHEREAS the Municipal Government Act is to be reviewed beginning in 2012;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the provincial government to include in its amendment of the Municipal Government Act that a municipality be recognized as an order of government and entitled to the same provisions and exemptions as the provincial government.
Current provincial practices with municipalities are detrimental to municipal long term sustainability. Clearwater County would like to respectfully submit the following examples where the province has chosen to treat municipalities the same as any other “private organization”.
Clearwater County is obligated to construct a new sewage lagoon for its citizens. Clearwater County found an appropriate location on crown property and applied for a license of occupation (LOC). The provincial government sent Clearwater County an invoice for $45,940.00 (timber damage we’re told). Weyerhauser (the FMA holder) sent another invoice for $129,144.74 (timber loss, we’re told). After consulting with Sustainable Resources, Clearwater County was told that if this was Alberta Transportation applying, they would be exempt – “there is no point in charging another level of government, government fees”. Clearwater County was charged the same amount as any private company would have been, while Alberta Transportation would have been exempt. If Clearwater County is successful in its application for funding, the province may well be paying us back the fees regardless; this system seems redundant.
Alberta Transportation moved its gravel crusher into a gravel pit in Clearwater County that has sat dormant for a number of years. This pit is located adjacent to many acreages and a multi-lot subdivision. The citizens in the area phoned Clearwater County to find out what was going on. We had no clue, the public wanted to know why their county was so out of touch. When Clearwater County informed the public that not only are municipalities unable to place any restrictions on the hours of operating the crusher, but the province isn’t even required to let us know of activities or projects being planned in our own backyard; they were astonished and some didn’t even believe it as they stated it was to absurd to be true. The province’s crusher worked 24 hours per day, 7 days a week for months. The public was irate and the county fielded the many calls.
Clearwater County is actively seeking gravel deposits within our county in strategic areas to accommodate the long term maintenance of our gravel road inventory as economically as possible. Clearwater County discovered a gravel source located within an acceptable distance to the existing municipal gravel road system and applied to SRD for approval to open an aggregate pit (apply for an SML – surface materials lease). SRD denied the application as it was 320 acres and it is now their policy not to approval more than 80 acres for any private organization. This policy was put in place to alleviate the potential for hording. If Alberta Transportation applied, they would not be held to the same 80 acre restriction because they are a government and they have a need for long term planning and sustainability, municipalities are considered private and do not carry the same consideration at this time. The need for access to long term gravel supplies is as equally important to Clearwater County as to the Province but this need is somehow not recognized.
To summarize, frequently at AUMA and AAMDC conventions urban and rural municipalities are told how valuable we are in providing the levels of service needed by Albertans. Clearwater County respectfully submits that the rewrite of the MGA should reflect a true partnership between the province and its municipal partners, recognizing them as a level of government with all associated rights and responsibilities. The recognition that we propose is not one requiring constitutional change and may be achieved through change within provincial legislation or regulation – such as a “municipal charter”.
With regard to the gravel examples provided in the member background, AAMDC Resolution 15-10F requests: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC encourage the Province of Alberta to develop a province wide strategy for the management of aggregate resources through the Provincial Land Use Framework; and that municipalities where the resource is located be given first priority when the Province of Alberta reviews applications for a Surface Material Exploration (SME) or Surface Material Lease (SML) on Crown Land.
With regard to municipal autonomy in a regionalization context, the AAMDC recently released the paper Finding Local Solutions: Exmaining the Impacts of Forced Regionalization.
Municipal Affairs: Under Alberta’s Municipal Government Act (MGA), municipalities have been given broad powers to enable a municipality to provide for safe and viable communities and good government. Broad powers codified in the current MGA, including expanded bylaw making powers, natural person powers, and spheres of jurisdiction, give municipalities much greater autonomy as local governments in Alberta than in previous legislation. These issues will continue to be explored as a new MGA is developed.
A Premier’s Council on Provincial-Municipal Fiscal Arrangements, chaired by the Premier, is under development. This council’s mandate will include streamlining grant programs, establishing clarity in roles and responsibilities, and reducing program and service entanglements. The Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties and the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association will both be invited to participate on this council, and this will be an ideal venue for the fiscal aspects of this issue to be discussed.
The examples cited in the Member Background section of this resolution can be addressed directly with officials from the relevant Government of Alberta departments, such as Alberta Transportation and Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (replying to Examples 1 and 3): Environment and Sustainable Resource Development’s Alberta Aggregate (Sand and Gravel) Allocation Policy for Commercial Use on Public Land (2006) allocates aggregate for commercial use in a fair, comprehensive, and timely manner that optimizes benefits for Albertans. The policy’s aggregate requirement for public interest confirms that public works gravel is reserved for Alberta Transportation and municipalities. When municipalities apply for commercial development of aggregate rather than for public works, no preferential allocation is offered.
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development will work closely with provincial agencies and municipal governments to ensure their needs are considered prior to aggregate allocations that are greater than 80 acres. The department will continue to notify the appropriate municipality and refer applications to the municipality for the opportunity to comment and indicate whether it wants to reserve part or all of the aggregate for public works. Under the Municipal Government Act, a development permit is required from the municipality prior to beginning operation. While not typical, the municipality may choose to work within the confines of the Act to withhold a development permit in favor of its own gravel needs for public works.
For aggregate allocations less than 80 acres, the department is not prepared to give municipalities first priority because commercial operators require certainty that their efforts to explore and develop gravel pits of this size are not jeopardized by municipalities’ first rights to the resource. Giving municipalities first priority over each and every application made by commercial operators would erode the willingness of private operators to invest in aggregate exploration.
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development also administers gravel pits on private land in accordance with the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act. All gravel pits on private land require development permit approval from local municipalities prior to construction.
The department will work with municipalities to ensure they receive the aggregate they require and that private operators have fair opportunity to continue to receive access to the resource.
Transportation (replying to Example 2): Notification of highway construction projects is provided
to all affected municipalities prior to the commencement of construction activities by Alberta Transportation. All government owned gravel pits are regulated by Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development to follow the Code of Practice for all operations within the pit and the ultimate reclamation. Asphalt plants, which are operated by private contractors, are also regulated through Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.
Gravel crushing is often done 24 hours daily in order to expedite the crushing and improve the efficiency of that stage of the project. Restricting crushing hours would result in longer construction projects and higher project costs. Municipalities are encouraged to work closely with Alberta Transportation regional staff to discuss any concerns with highway construction projects or gravel extraction activities.
While Municipal Affairs acknowledges that the powers of municipalities will be addressed in the review of the MGA, the government does not acknowledge any specific support that municipalities be recognized as an order of government, nor provided the same exceptions as the province. As such, this resolution will continue to hold the status of Unsatisfactory. The AAMDC appreciates the opportunity to participate in the MGA review and will continue to use that process to advocate for this important change in legislation. The AAMDC continues to advocate on this issue through our engagement in the MGA Review Process.