WHEREAS municipalities have a responsibility for the provision of good government, the provision of services, facilities, or other things that in the opinion of council, are necessary or desirable for the municipality and to develop and maintain safe and viable communities as per the Municipal Government Act RSA 2000 c. M-26; and
WHEREAS the municipal/provincial relationship is vital to ensure that such good government and services can effectively be provided; and
WHEREAS the challenges of effective consultation and communication between municipal and provincial government are evident and are impeding municipal government from effectively fulfilling its’ duties and calls into question the province’s commitment to working with municipal elected officials to their fullest capabilities; and
WHEREAS a municipality is a creature of the province with a limited amount of natural person powers given to it by the Municipal Government Act; and
WHEREAS the province is required by that same legislation to provide municipalities with clear and concise direction, which would require direct interaction;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) appeal to the Government of Alberta to establish and maintain a uniform consultation and communication protocol with municipal elected officials which is applicable to all provincial bodies;
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that through this consultation and communication protocol, the Government of Alberta recognizes and acknowledges the legislated significance of municipal elected officials, and that the Government of Alberta engage municipalities openly and transparently to provide input and feedback on the consultation and communication protocol from inception through to implementation.
Alberta municipal elected officials are concerned and challenged with the absence of direct communication and difficulty utilizing or having access to limited channels to arrange meetings with provincial elected officials. Examples of this are vast and province wide. For example, the County of Grande Prairie had requested a meeting with Minister Miranda, Minister of Culture and Tourism on August 22, 2017. Various emails have gone back and forth with the Minister’s office but as of January 31, 2018 no meeting has yet been scheduled or explanation for delay provided.
In addition, due to the difficulties encountered to schedule appointments or converse with provincial elected officials, municipalities are not sufficiently consulted on various issues that directly affect the residents of Alberta under the direct care of locally elected officials.
Municipalities expected to participate in the implementation of provincial programs and/or initiatives are hampered with a lack of information or inconsistent information. Municipal elected officials cannot therefore make an educated and informed response. An example of this is the Intermunicipal Collaborative Framework legislation. Various questions surround the transportation component, which still have not been addressed, and municipalities have received conflicting direction from provincial staff on how to proceed and how transportation is defined. Specifically, does “transportation” mean just publictransit or all transportation infrastructure and maintenance?
Municipalities are invited to comment on various topics at the same time as the public when it appears a plan is already in place or being developed. This process is not a consultation process but rather an exercise in informing the public and municipalities.
Provincial elected officials visiting municipalities or regions are not consistently informing municipalities of the visit. When the municipality learns about the visit after the provincial elected official has arrived, local elected officials lose the opportunity to share information and develop relationships with the provincial elected official. In late 2017, Alberta Health Minister Hoffman visited the Grande Prairie area and the County of Grande Prairie did not learn of the visit until after it had concluded and the Minister had left the region.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Municipal Affairs
The GoA recognizes municipalities as key partners in serving Albertans, and strives to work closely and collaboratively with municipal governments wherever possible. This has been exemplified by the collaborative co-development of city charters with the cities of Edmonton and Calgary, as well as the multi-year review of the Municipal Government Act (MGA). During the MGA review, both the Rural Municipalities of Alberta and the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association were directly at the table as members of the MGA Review Steering Committee, as well as directly engaged in each working group and focus group throughout the entire process.
The Minister of Alberta Municipal Affairs (MA) is the lead minister in working with municipalities and their associations. Other ministers remain open to meeting with municipal representatives on ministry specific issues wherever possible.
Municipalities are encouraged to approach individual ministers whenever an issue-specific meeting is required. Where this approach is not effective for some reason, municipal officials may contact the Minister of MA for help in facilitating such meetings.
Alberta Communications and Public Engagement
Alberta Communications and Public Engagement has no further input beyond the response from MA.
RMA appreciates the effort that Alberta Municipal Affairs have demonstrated in involving RMA and its members in consultations related to the Municipal Government Act review. However, the resolution requests a uniform approach to gathering direct input from municipal elected officials on issues that impact municipalities, regardless of ministry. In endorsing this resolution, RMA members have indicated that the quality of consultation varies widely, and a consistent approach is needed to ensure the municipal voice is consistently heard.
More recently, RMA has experienced several cases in which government officials leading consultations or changes to legislation and policy in certain areas were unaware of changes underway in other areas of government that, when combined, would have a cumulative impact on municipalities.
RMA assigns this resolution a status of Intent Not Met and will continue to work with the Government of Alberta to improve the consultation process with municipalities.