Municipalities exist to provide local services in a way that suits local needs. RMA members take this responsibility seriously, and seek to provide services that meet the needs of residents and industry in a cost effective manner. However, in recent years, provincial policies have eroded municipal autonomy by limiting the ability of municipalities to make local land use planning decisions, increasing reporting requirements, narrowing the scope of how grant funds can be spent, and changing how some local decisions are made. This impacts municipal autonomy, and impacts the ability of municipal leaders to make decisions that support the priorities of their community.
This challenge to local autonomy is especially serious in relation to developments that are provincially approved. Major projects such as solar and wind developments, oil wells and pipelines, and confined feeding operations are approved by provincial regulators that are not required to align approvals with, or even consider, municipal land use plans or the impacts that the developments may have on local infrastructure or neighbouring properties. While rural municipalities are proud to host much of the province’s industrial development, this lack of input has resulted in cases where municipalities and rural residents are left to deal with the unintended consequences of developments because provincial regulators failed to consider local interests when reviewing applications.
What can candidates do on this issue?
Support reforming the project review and approval process of the Alberta Utilities Commission, the Alberta Energy Regulator, the Natural Resources Conservation Board, and other provincial regulatory bodies to ensure they consider municipal land use plans and local impacts when approving projects.