Regional co-operation key to new Alberta Municipal Government Act:minister

Alberta municipalities will be required to work together for the "better good" as part of the new legislative framework that governs how all local governments in the province will operate in the future.

CALGARY — Alberta municipalities will be required to work together for the “better good” as part of the new legislative framework that governs how all local governments in the province will operate in the future.

The current Municipal Government Act came into effect almost two decades ago and was to be updated a couple of years ago but was delayed as a result of the 2013 floods and municipal elections.

Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Derek Bilous gave a progress report on the legislation Friday to delegates attending the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention in Calgary.

He says the government will introduce the updated act in the legislature next spring and all changes will be proclaimed before municipal elections in the fall of 2017.

A key component of the legislation will be greater regional collaboration.

“The current structure of the MGA has led to municipalities competing against each other instead of working with each other,” Bilous told reporters after his speech.

“It’s time to turn the corner and modernize those relationships therefore municipalities will form partnerships and find new and innovative ways to integrate services, to manage growth and to use land better,” he added.

Bilous said giving the regional bodies increased taxation powers has not been discussed but will be with stakeholders before the act is proclaimed into law.

He said the co-operation is not a request.

“It’s legislation and so municipalities that contravene that are essentially breaking the law and there are consequences for those that do,” Bilous said.

“We’re looking at ways to support municipalities to partner and work together and so funding is a great way to incent that behaviour.”

Bilous said the legislation will resolve a number of outstanding issues involving municipalities and should result in better provincial-municipal relations and increased fairness and consistency for taxpayers.

Wildrose MLA Pat Stier said he had concerns about new growth management boards from the metropolitan regions of Edmonton and Calgary. Stier said it was only in a tweet by Bilous later that it was learned membership would be mandatory.

“A complete lack of clarity about membership, how these boards will be governed and a seeming lack of consultation with the municipalities impacted makes it look like we’re off to a bad start,” Steir said in a news release.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the plan is encouraging.

“I am pleased that the new government has made this firm commitment to pass a revised MGA in 2016. After years of consultation, it’s good to see action on this important file,” Nenshi said in a statement.

The outgoing president of the AUMA called it a “transformative opportunity” and taking time to get the process right is important.

“Continuing to dialogue as the legislation is being built is absolutely critical for municipalities to identify risks and opportunities within a new governance model of empowerment and their ability to resource those obligations,” said Helen Rice.

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