WHEREAS the Government of Alberta caps the fee amounts for Alberta Registry Agents (ARAs) through the Registry Agent Product Catalogue for those services that comprise the largest volume of revenues, which have not been adjusted to reflect the increases to the minimal wage or cost-of-living increases in Alberta; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta has not provided details on the scope of government’s future involvement in providing online services; and
WHEREAS the ARAs offer essential professional and personalized online services to clients near their homes, a fact of significant importance to aging Alberta clients with distance restricted driver’s licences, and/or with no ability to use the Internet for the conduct of personal government business; and
WHEREAS the elimination of the critical mass of registry transactions and associated transaction fees could threaten the viability of all ARAs; and
WHEREAS the potential closure of ARAs in small communities would have a negative impact on the local economy by diverting the spending outside of the municipality’s boundaries;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties requests that the Government of Alberta recognize the vital role and positive impact that Alberta Registry Agents (ARAs) have in Alberta communities, and request that the province partner with the ARAs and local municipalities by:
Authorized registry agents such as the Association of Alberta Registry Agents (AARA) have been licensed as Service Centers for the Government of Alberta for the past 22 years. They currently offer over 200 products and services on behalf of four government departments – Service Alberta, Alberta Justice, Alberta Health, and Alberta Transportation.
AARA has 206 Agencies (88 large and small in urban markets and 118 in rural Alberta) located in 150 Alberta Communities (32 or 21% urban centers-118 or 79% rural jurisdictions).
Agents have also been offering online registry services to Albertans for over 10 years through their affiliation with the Association of Alberta Registry Agents. For example, AARA have been under contract with Alberta Justice since 2004 to give Albertans the option to pay their traffic fines online. This option supplements Albertan’s ability to pay these fines across the counter at 206 agencies in the province. 400,000 traffic fines were paid online in 2015. 2016 fine payments are up 30% due to registry agent participation and an innovative provincial advertising campaign. Projections for 2016 will exceed 500,000 online fine payments. Consumers pay a $6 service fee which is a 33% reduction from the over-the-counter fee. Unfortunately, AARA and AMA contract to provide this service expires on July 7, 2016 and they have received no indication that there will be an extension.
In the eventuality that Service Alberta and Alberta Justice decide to eliminate registry agents from this online channel, repatriate online fine payments to their e-Services portal, they will be perceived by AARA and AMA to go into direct competition with their authorized agents of the Government of Alberta. Furthermore, and at this point in time, registry agents have been given no assurances that they will be able to continue to offer online vehicle renewals to Albertans (100,000 in 2015).
Traffic fines and vehicle renewals are the two largest transactions processed by the Registry Agent Network (206 independent registry agents plus the AMA). The cancellation of these online contracts will result in a $3M loss of revenue to independent registry agents, AARA, and AMA. But more importantly, this step is the precedent that could be used to eliminate registry agents from offering future online registry services to the customers that they have been serving for 22+ years.
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 needs to be qualified, trained, and certified to meet high customer expectations. Albertans demand quality service from their registry agent. Agents have continued to invest to meet new technology requirements, population growth, etc. The industry needs to continue to evolve and modernize to keep pace with market, economic, and political conditions.
AARA and AMA dedicate significant resources to improve the health of the registry agent network through education, training, agent support, online marketing, new services like e-Reminders, etc. Service Alberta would be ill-equipped to take back these responsibilities if AARA loses this important online revenue channel, and the Government of Alberta goes into competition with its authorized registry agents.
Importance to Service Alberta & Alberta Justice
The processing of the $3M in 2016 online fine revenue will roughly be split as follows: authorized registry agents would process $1.75M; AARA $.75M, and AMA $.5M. Online vehicle renewal revenue is over and above these amounts.
Importance to Independent Registry Agents
A healthy agent network is best positioned to serve the diverse needs of all Albertans. A sense of financial stability underpins the agents’ ability to make solid business decisions. Registry agents, especially the rural agents, have not received a fee increase in 11 years, so they can ill afford to give up any revenue. Agents rely on AARA and the revenue it earns through contracts with Service Alberta and Alberta Justice to undertake projects that individual agents either are not well positioned to do or cannot afford to do.
Importance to AARA and AMA
As previously noted, these two not-for-profit agencies provide important member services that improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Registry Agent Network and, by doing so, improves service to all Albertans. But these services are dependent on a portion of the revenue derived from online registry services.
AARA Modernization Plan and Requests
In their Modernization Plan, AARA is proposing Contract amendments to the Online Fines contract with Alberta Justice that would see the contract operate in perpetuity with a 365-day termination clause (similar to the RISE Online Vehicle Renewal contract with Service Alberta). This would give the registry industry a measure of certainty to modernize existing online technology at no cost to the government.
AARA seeks Government’s approval to work with Service Alberta IT managers and staff to add a link to the myAlberta.ca portal that would then allow AARA and AMA to build the necessary infrastructure behind that link to enhance and expand services to Albertans. This would be done at no cost to the government. It would be redundant for Service Alberta to build a parallel online registry support structure when existing agents of the Crown already have that structure in operation, and are willing to modernize it at no cost to the government.
1-14S: Privatization of the Alberta Land Titles Registry System
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the Government of Alberta to retain the Alberta Land Titles Registry System status quo or as a public system as a statutory non-profit corporation.
DEVELOPMENTS: Service Alberta has clarified, both in their response to this resolution and through a discussion between the Minister of Service Alberta and the AAMDC Board of Directors, that the privatization of the province’s land title registry system is not being considered. The new provincial government has given no indication that they are considering privatizing registry services. As such, this resolution is deemed to be Accepted.