WHEREAS Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development regulates municipal water codes and practices; and
WHEREAS Alberta Transportation administers funding under the Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Partnership for municipal water/wastewater infrastructure projects;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to provide funding for municipal water/wastewater infrastructure projects through the department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development so that the agency responsible for regulating water/wastewater codes and practices also administers funding for water/wastewater infrastructure.
Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) is the department responsible for regulating and enforcing municipal water codes and practices. However, Alberta Transportation is provided funding to allocate to municipal water/wastewater infrastructure projects through the Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Partnership. The MD of Big Lakes is suggesting that the same funding be provided through ESRD to better reflect the responsible authority for water/wastewater infrastructure.
ER1-13S: Funding of Approved Water for Life Projects Based on Actual Total Costs
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties advocate on the behalf of municipalities for the Government of Alberta to continue to fund “projects” through the Water for Life program at the approved percentage of the estimate rather than to the amount indicated in the approval letter to reflect actual cost; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Alberta ensures that current approved projects are funded based on actual total costs prior to the approval of new projects under the Water for Life Program.
DEVELOPMENTS: The AAMDC deems the government response to this resolution as unsatisfactory. Though the Government of Alberta has indicated that projects approved under the Water for Life Program that have not started construction may not receive full funding in 2013-14, there is no intent indicated to fund existing projects based on actual total cost. In addition, there is no indication that changes will be made to the approval process to accommodate actual project costs instead of estimated costs moving forward. The AAMDC will continue to advocate on this issue and advise members of funding or approval process changes as applicable.
Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
The Water for Life strategy and action plan are jointly implemented by ministries across the GOA and major partners, including the Alberta Water Council, watershed planning and advisory councils, and watershed stewardship groups. While ESRD is accountable for regulating and enforcing municipal water codes and practices, Transportation administers the capital funding for water and wastewater infrastructure through the Alberta Municipal Water and Wastewater Partnership.
ESRD supports Transportation in the review and prioritization of Water for Life funding requests. In response to municipal concerns and consultations with stakeholders and partners, ESRD, Transportation, and Municipal Affairs (MA) are working together to examine roles and responsibilities, governance, and funding options as they relate to municipal drinking water and wastewater infrastructure grants.
The Government of Alberta (GOA) delivers the Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Partnership and the Water for Life funding programs through Alberta Transportation. The predecessors to these programs were the Alberta Municipal Water and Sewage Grant Program and the Regional Utilities Program, which were initiated in the 1970’s by the former Ministry of Environment. In 1982, the GOA moved these programs to the Department of Utilities. This created a needed separation between the legislation and enforcement functions of the Ministry of Environment from the grant funding functions.
Through the Results-based Budgeting process, the GOA continues to improve access to municipal grants. Currently, there is no plan to move this funding program back to Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, as there is still a need to maintain a separation between the enforcement and funding functions.
Alberta Treasury Board and Finance
Treasury Board and Finance has no specific input to add in response to this resolution.
Alberta Municipal Affairs (MA)
Alberta Transportation is responsible for the administration of the Alberta Municipal Water/Wastewater Partnership program, and as a result MA will not comment on the administration of this program.
However, MA does provide significant funding to municipalities through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (Capital) and federal Gas Tax Fund programs. These programs provide municipalities with the flexibility to complete projects that are local priorities, including water and wastewater projects. Additionally, municipalities must ensure that projects funded through these programs meet all applicable provincial and federal standards and regulations.
While the AAMDC appreciates the Government of Alberta’s preference to separate funding and regulatory functions across ministries, this system creates administrative challenges for municipalities, as municipal officials responsible for water/wastewater infrastructure must work with officials from two completely different ministries on various water/wastewater-related issues. Additionally, the need to separate funding and regulation responsibilities does not apply to other types of infrastructure such as municipal roads and bridges, in which Alberta Transportation is responsible for both funding, monitoring, and regulatory functions. As such, this resolution is assigned the status of Intent Not Met.