By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
Alberta’s Municipal Government Act (MGA) is the province’s second-largest piece of legislation and touches the daily lives of Albertans. The MGA defines how municipalities are governed, funded and developed.
Amendments to the MGA were recently introduced in the legislature by Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee, through the Modernized Municipal Government Act. The goal of the proposed Modernized Municipal Government Act or Bill 21, according to an Alberta government media release, is to move forward with modernizing municipal governance, contained propose policies to improve Alberta’s economic competitiveness, create municipal partnerships to better serve Albertans, and build stronger, more sustainable communities for urban and rural families.
“This is a highly technical bill,” noted Little Bow Wildrose MLA David Schneider, after the amendments were introduced in the legislature last month.
Pat Stier, shadow minister or opposition critic for Municipal Affairs, gathered together a few MLAs to discuss the amendment proposals. “It’s more than one person can handle,” Schneider noted.
“There’s three of us that have had municipal councillor experience and have been on councils. One of them is an accountant and the other has had some dealings with a municipality. There’s 29 things brought up in Bill 21, which is an amendment to the MGA. We’ve all kind of taken three or four of those and then we will determine later on how we’re going to cover some of the others,” he explained, adding some are very small but some are bigger.
According to Schneider, the Alberta government produced its own amendment to the amendment to the MGA.
“There was like 45 amendments. This is amendment A-1 to Bill 21. There’s 45 items. When it’s all shook out, some of them are very uncontroversial — housekeeping issues and words were spelled wrong,” he said.
Some of the other things changed in regards to the Alberta government’s amendments, Schneider noted, included councillors — rather than being required to offer training to municipal councillors after an election — now the training must be offered within 90 days of taking an oath of office. Code of conduct, it was proposed, will also be included as part of a councillor’s training.
“That will be a requirement of the municipality to adopt this code of conduct for its councillors and that’s now part of training that wasn’t before.This is pretty small stuff,” he added.
In the existing MGA, Schneider said, an Intermunicipal Development Plan (IDP), those plans were not mandatory.
“When Bill 21 came out, they became something that would become mandatory and they were given a five-year timeline. They have now reduced that down to two. An IDP certainly wasn’t something that was mandatory in the MGA. Bill 21 suggests every municipality would have to have a municipal government plan of its own and that was to be completed within two years,” Schneider said.
When the amendment to the amendment to the MGA came out, Schneider said, the government must have had a little bit of push back from people not too keen on the proposed amendments and the timeframes within.
“You’ve got one at five years. You’ve got one at two years and one at two years plus a year. What they determined is they are going to do everything within three years,” added Schneider.
Certainly, the concern Schneider said he has is when he looks at the smaller municipalities in dealing with the mandatory documents to be created, especially when most times only one person handles answering the phone, putting agendas and information together for council and now putting together such large documents.
“This poor person at this small municipality, who doesn’t get any more money either, but now they’ve got three fairly strenuous documents,” he said.
Schneider said he didn’t want to talk too much about the amendment because the government hasn’t got too far yet on it.
“The amendment would give municipalities a little more time and that’s what we heard from AUMA and AMDC and certainly from submissions we had from municipalities on their own that these timelines are a little strenuous, certainly for smaller municipalities,” he said.
Schneider added this whole revamping the MGA has been going on for several years.
“It’s time it came to fruition. Any amendments we’re making is based solely on what the municipalities are telling us and what the two municipal associations that represent those municipalities, both rural and urban. That’s where we’re taking our cues from and certainly from stakeholder submissions we receive outside of that,” he said.
“It’s all based on what’s best for municipalities, from our perspective. That’s how we’re putting our amendments together, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be accepted,” he added.