Growth boards put on the back burner

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Alison Redford slammed the brakes Thursday on a provincewide regional planning bill amid concerns it would gut local authority and give her government absolute control.

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Alison Redford slammed the brakes Thursday on a provincewide regional planning bill amid concerns it would gut local authority and give her government absolute control.

Redford said the bill, which had been moving through the house at breakneck speed since Tuesday, will not be acted upon further until her officials hear more from municipal leaders.

“We believe that this (bill) will modernize the relationship between the provincial government and municipal leaders,” Redford said outside Government House, where she met with her caucus.

“Now that it has been introduced into the house we know that it’s important to consult with municipal leaders.

“We’re going to make sure that the legislation that we put in place meets the objectives that rural and large municipalities have to keep building the province.”

The controversy is over a proposal to expand throughout the province work that is being done by the regional planning commission in the Edmonton area.

The legislation would give the province power to set up regional growth boards, appoint board members, set board mandates and have the final say on all decisions.

Elected local leaders who didn’t work with the boards by filing all requested documentation would face a $10,000 fine or a year in jail.

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said the city does not have a regional planning commission and has no plans to proceed with one.

“Our growth and development is primarily driven by the Intermunicipal Development Plan with the County of Red Deer,” said Veer. “We will continue to follow through what we have agreed to in the IDP with the county . . . If that were ever on the table it would require the joint agreement with both Red Deer City and Red Deer County.”

Veer said at this point the legislation does not affect Red Deer directly but they will be keeping a close eye on the amendments.

At first blush, the proposed legislation will have little impact on Red Deer, Veer said.

Red Deer North MLA Mary Anne Jablonski said Thursday the regulations have been in effect for a long time and the amendments formalize them in legislation.

She said the bill sets out healthy parameters on growth strategies between the Alberta government and the municipalities.

Jablonski pointed to a few years ago when the City of Red Deer and the County of Red Deer could not come to agreements on land issues.

But fortunately, she said, they were able to work out things out.

Jablonski said the amendments will help those municipalities that faced a similar situation and may have trouble coming to an agreement.

She said the IDP between the county and the city came as a result of the regulations already in place. Jablonski added the new bill will encourage the municipalities to do what’s best for the entire region.

Opposition critics said such a law would effectively sideline municipalities and make their leaders little more than the province’s puppets.

They also said the bill was being rammed through the legislature with little to no chance for input.

The legislation was not signalled Monday by Redford in a speech outlining her priorities during the fall sitting. It was introduced by Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths in the house Tuesday night. Thirty hours later, it passed second reading in a late-night legislature sitting that didn’t end until almost 2 a.m. Thursday.