Province announces completion of new Municipal Government Act

By Enrique Massot
The County News

After over five years of work, the provincial government has announced the completion of a five-year review of the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

“This updated piece of legislation provides municipalities the tools and resources they need to build strong communities,” said Shaye Anderson, Minister of Municipal Affairs.

With over 700 sections, the MGA is Alberta’s second largest piece of legislation and guides how municipalities operate. The final piece was the proclamation of regulations to the new MGA announced Oct. 26.

One of the major additions to the new MGA is the reinstatement of mandatory regional planning in the province’s two major metropolitan areas.

Regional planning existed in Alberta but was eliminated in 1995 during a review of the MGA, leaving intermunicipal collaboration to the will of individual municipalities.

This led to increasing conflicts as land-rich rural municipalities began to compete with urban centres for development.

Lack of regional co-ordination led to duplication of services where regional approaches could reduce costs due to economies of scale, leading to greater efficiencies.

However, the Edmonton Metropolitan Region has succeeded in gathering 24 municipalities that are working together to coordinate growth, servicing and energy corridors.

As a result, the new requirement will mostly impact the Calgary region, where attempts to coordinate growth and services voluntarily failed to retain the rural municipalities.

Another provision of the new MGA will allow municipalities to implement off-site levies to fund the construction of community recreation facilities, fire halls, police stations and libraries.

The MGA in place to date allowed municipalities to create levies only for new or expanded roads, sanitary sewer systems, storm sewers and water systems.

Other additions to the MGA include:

  • Allowing parental leave for municipal councillors
  • Requiring training to be offered to municipal councillors
  • The provincial ombudsman providing oversight of municipalities
  • Mandatory compliance with the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA) regional plans

Growth Management Boards

To ensure compliance with the ALSA and regional plans, Growth Management Boards will be created in both the Edmonton and Calgary regions.

Municipalities in the region will be required to amend statutory plans and make decisions consistent with the growth plan for the entire region.

The Calgary Regional Partnership was formed as a voluntary organization of municipalities. It prepared and adopted the Calgary Metropolitan Plan for member municipalities within the Calgary region.

However, the rural municipalities surrounding Calgary withdrew from the Partnership without adopting the metropolitan plan.

“That has hindered integrated planning and servicing across the region,” the provincial government has noted.

Upon the proclamation of the new MGA regulations, a Growth Management Board will continue to be mandatory for the City of Edmonton region, and a Growth Management Board will be created in the Calgary region to address:

  • Land-use planning
  • Servicing of growth
  • Regional service delivery
  • Cost sharing
  • Dispute resolution

 Municipal Affairs will work with municipalities in the two metropolitan growth regions to further develop the regulations that define the mandate, membership and governance of their Growth Management Boards.

To read the Alberta government’s full press release, click here.

For more information, go to Alberta’s MGA Review website.

(Editor’s note) This article was updated on Oct. 27, 2017