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WHEREAS the Government of Alberta has recently undertaken public policy discussions and decision-making on fundamental changes which affect local governments through “embargoed” processes which prohibit municipal organizations participating in these processes from consulting with member municipalities; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta required that organizations participating in the assessment model review abide by strict confidentiality requirements through an embargoed process; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta is requiring as a condition of participation in the Alberta Police Advisory Board that organizations abide by strict confidentially requirements through an embargoed process; and
WHEREAS embargoed processes do not allow for the application of fundamental democratic processes including transparency and consultation with parties most impacted by changes to government policy or legislation; and
WHEREAS municipal councils regularly address confidential information and are bound by the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Municipal Government Act and municipal councilor code of conduct bylaws and as such confidentiality requirements may be assured when consultations include municipal governments;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Rural Municipalities of Alberta request the Government of Alberta to amend its policy development processes for embargoed committee work to ensure that organizations that represent municipal governments can share information and seek input from their member municipalities during the committee process.
Rural municipalities across Alberta have expressed concerns regarding two recent policy matters which have been addressed by the Government of Alberta including the police funding model and the assessment model review.
The policy development process undertaken by the Government of Alberta for these issues included the participation of various stakeholders including the Rural Municipalities of Alberta and the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. All stakeholders invited to participate in the committee process were required to adhere to strict conditions of confidentiality which included a prohibition on consultation with members of the municipal organizations.
Municipal councils regularly address confidential information and are bound by the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Municipal Government Act and municipal councillor code of conduct bylaws. As such, confidentiality requirements may be assured when consultations include municipal governments.
The embargoed process as required by the province does not allow for information sharing among stakeholder groups during the policy development process, is inadequate to provide participation and creates immediate resistance to committee proposals which arise from committee work as a direct result of the lack of information available to stakeholders. Additionally, it does not provide transparency and lacks critical public oversight which ensures a fair and equitable process for all stakeholders.
RMA has no active resolutions directly related to this issue.
Alberta Municipal Affairs
Government commends the Rural Municipalities of Alberta and other organizations for participating in policy discussions, as it is valuable for government to hear all perspectives. It is important for options to be presented to members of impacted organizations for their feedback, and government processes are designed to encourage this wherever feasible.
Depending on the nature of the subject matter, or the stage of policy development, confidentiality may be required. This is not the norm, however, and the Government of Alberta does not have a standard process for embargoed committee work. As a result, the appropriate parameters may vary depending on the issue under consideration. Whatever method is used to collect it, member feedback is invaluable in helping government to make sound policy decisions.
The Government of Alberta response indicates that the province does not currently have a formal process for determining when an embargoed process is required and have no plans to do so. As RMA members are concerned with the current arbitrary nature of when consultations are embargoed, and the lack of ability for organizations such as RMA to engage their members on issues that have been embargoed, this resolution is assigned a status of Intent Not Met and RMA will continue to emphasize the need for member updates and engagement in future embargoed consultation processes.