B.C. government says they want to talk to feds about cellphone bills. THE NEWS/files

Alberta plans to increase 911 fees in September and change municipal spending

EDMONTON — Albertans could see an increase in the 911 fee on their cellphone bills in September to pay for eventual upgrades to the emergency system that would allow texting for help.

A bill called the Local Measures Act has been introduced in the legislature by Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver.

It deals with both capital spending for municipalities and would modernize the emergency 911 system across the province by 2024.

A 911 fee hike to 95 cents a month from 44 cents would raise about $41 million annually, up from the current $17 million.

The additional money would go toward nine secondary 911 centres in addition to 20 primary ones already funded through the cellphone levy.

The secondary centres would also be regulated by the new legislation.

“Upgrading 911 systems is a public safety issue,” McIver said Thursday. “Albertans will continue to have safe, reliable services when they call 911 during an emergency.”

In addition to giving people the ability to text 911, the system upgrades give first responders more accurate location information and allow calls to be transferred from one centre to another using the same technology.

McIver said the second, unrelated part of the bill addresses capital spending for towns and cities.

“In Budget 2020-21, capital funding through the Municipal Sustainability Initiative … was reduced by 25 per cent over the next three years,” he said. “Municipalities will receive $722 million per year, on average, as we live within our means.

“However, this funding is front-end loaded and can be spread out over multiple years.”

McIver said the bill introduced Thursday would allow the province to delay the implementation of the Local Government Fiscal Framework until 2024-25. Once implemented, he said there will be baseline funding of $722 million for municipalities that will then rise and fall based on provincial revenues.

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