WHEREAS Alberta is experiencing unprecedented population growth resulting in some municipalities exploring options to expand their municipal boundaries; and
WHEREAS municipalities in various areas of the province are undertaking annexation requests to address this growth and examining amalgamation or the creation of specialized municipalities to acquire a broader tax base; and
WHEREAS amalgamation usually involves a rural municipality and an urban municipality resulting in changes in governance structures, finances, service delivery and municipal identity; and
WHEREAS there is the opportunity to explore how governance structures could facilitate these municipal formation or status changes, with due consideration of how rural areas excluded from these formation changes will be impacted; and
WHEREAS Bill 28 was introduced into the legislature October 28, 2013 to formally clarify the formation and role of growth management boards in Alberta; and
WHEREAS the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC), the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and the cities of Calgary and Edmonton were involved in discussions regarding Bill 28 resulting in all parties supporting the Enabling Regional Growth Boards Act; and
WHEREAS the Government of Alberta has undertaken a review of the Municipal Government Act; which currently allows for voluntary amalgamations, regardless of financial incentive; and
WHEREAS through that legislation, municipalities have the ability to make decisions that best suit their local needs to support municipal and community viability regarding land-use planning, amalgamation, inter-municipal cooperation, and cost-sharing;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties request the Government of Alberta to retain existing components of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) that enable local decision making in pursuit of inter-municipal cooperation and changes of municipal status, including specialized municipalities and the formation of new municipalities as a result of amalgamation, in any amendments to the MGA; and
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Alberta require municipalities that are pursuing amalgamation to undertake a study identifying why this is the favoured alternative to address local need or encourage municipal viability; factoring in local governance structures, financial impacts, municipal service delivery and impacts to surrounding areas as part of the amalgamation process;
FURTHER BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Alberta retain the Enabling Regional Growth Boards Act as the supporting legislation for municipalities interested in the formation of voluntary growth management boards as a means in providing for integrated and strategic planning for future regional growth.
Alberta is a booming province and many municipalities are facing growth pressures and challenges accessing funding to support demands associated with growth and aging infrastructure.
Municipalities are guided by the Municipal Government Act (MGA) which enables local decision making and provides guidance for municipal government in Alberta. This includes enabling, but not requiring, municipalities to work collaboratively to plan at a regional level and contribute financially to projects or initiatives that support regional cooperation. The MGA is currently being reviewed and thorough consultation has been undertaken by the Government of Alberta to ensure all stakeholders have had the opportunity to submit feedback into the process.
Having tools in place to promote long-term planning benefits the province as a whole and encourages municipalities to work collaboratively to determine how progressive growth will impact the various areas of the province. On November 4, 2013, Bill 28 was introduced into the Alberta legislature to formally clarify the formation and role of growth management boards in Alberta. After consultations with the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC), the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and the cities of Calgary and Edmonton, Bill 28 was passed and renamed the Enabling Regional Growth Boards Act. This new legislation is intended to enable two or more municipalities to initiate, on a voluntary basis, the establishment of a growth management board to provide for integrated and strategic planning for future growth.
The MD of Bonnyville is a firm supporter of the regional cooperation tools enabled through the MGA as a means of addressing challenges associated with growth. The MD is involved in multiple cooperative funding agreements to support regional service initiatives and has in place a Regional Community Development Agreement, which includes providing annual funding, with the Village of Glendon and the Town of Bonnyville. The MD also partners with the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority and the Beaver River Regional Waste Management Commission and is entering into a new partnership with the Town of Bonnyville and the Bonnyville Health Foundation for a future program regarding doctor recruitment and retention. Existing legislation enables the MD of Bonnyville to work with other municipalities and form partnerships to provide financial support and regional services to best meet the need of area residents.
The Government of Alberta has mechanisms in place to determine funding based on both per capita measures and more complex formulas, which better account for the needs of rural areas with lower populations. This variety of funding models addresses Alberta’s diverse demographics and current legislation supports local governments to undertake decision making to determine how local funds can be used to best meet the needs of a municipality and, subsequently, region. The existing agreements and partnerships the MD of Bonnyville has in place are supported by the current legislation and most local municipalities have worked hard to continue to foster these relationships to ensure the region as a whole benefits.
Approaching the issue of amalgamation should not be taken lightly and municipalities interested in going this route should consider other alternatives as governance, municipal finances and municipal services of all parties involved will be impacted. Alternatives might include formal partnerships for service delivery, cost-sharing agreements, establishing inter-municipal development plans or forming voluntary growth management boards to undertake a regional approach while retaining municipal autonomy and identity.
The MGA and theEnabling Regional Growth Boards Act are valued pieces of legislation that support local decision making. In the 2014-15 provincial budget, the Government of Alberta introduced the Alberta Community Partnership program which provides support for collaborations of two or more municipalities working strategically on new or enhanced regional service delivery. These legislative and funding mechanisms support collaboration to ensure that local autonomy can be maintained while allowing for the voluntary adoption of regional development approaches.
23-11F: Finding Local Solutions: Examining the Impacts of Forced Regionalization
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that members of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties endorse the position outlined in the paper entitled Finding Local Solutions: Examining the Impacts of Forced Regionalization.
DEVELOPMENTS: The AAMDC presented the final paper entitled Finding Local Solutions: Examining the Impacts of Forced Regionalization to the membership at the Fall 2011 Convention. Notification of the availability of the paper on the AAMDC website has been distributed to members via member bulletin. Based on the completion of this paper, the AAMDC deems the status of this resolution as Accepted.
The study can be accessed online at aamdc.com.
Municipal Affairs: Municipal Affairs is in the process of a comprehensive review of the Municipal Government Act. Extensive consultation took place on the Act throughout much of 2014. A significant variety of issues were raised through the consultation process, including suggestions for intermunicipal collaboration and restructuring.
Municipal Affairs is working with key stakeholders and municipal partners, including the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, to review the issues raised through the consultation process, and to identify options for addressing these issues. This resolution will be considered as part of the review process.
The AAMDC continues to be involved in the review of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) and is advocating for the position outlined by AAMDC members through this and other resolutions. The changes featured in Bill 20: The Municipal Government Amendment Act, do make reference to an amalgamation study but do not identify that such a study should focus on ‘why’ an amalgamation is the favoured alternative to address local need or municipal viability. The changes instead specify what an amalgamation report must include, all of which are items of ‘how’ an amalgamated municipality would be structured. As such the amended wordings of the MGA require an amalgamation report not to be a study identifying why amalgamation is the favored alternative but, instead, require the amalgamation report to be an implementation or “how to” plan on how to amalgamate if approved.
Through the MGA review process, the AAMDC will continue to advocate for any amalgamation application to require a study identifying why amalgamation is the favored alternative among options available. The revised MGA and associated regulations are expected to come into force in 2017.
In addition to the MGA review process, the AAMDC has also completed the report Examining Municipal Government Models from the Alberta Perspective to inform AAMDC members of municipal government structures and how they would apply in Alberta. The report can be found online at AAMDC.com.
This resolution currently has a status of Intent Not Met, and will be reviewed as the MGA review process proceeds.