Alberta considers banning deals between municipalities and Ottawa without provincial approval

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Alberta considers banning deals between municipalities and Ottawa without provincial approval
WATCH ABOVE: The battle between Ottawa and Alberta continues and it could be cities and towns that bear the brunt. As Adam MacVicar reports, the provincial government wants to introduce legislation banning deals between municipalities and the federal government without provincial approval – Apr 9, 2024

The Alberta government has signalled it plans to introduce legislation that would prevent municipalities from dealing directly with the federal government without provincial permission.

Although details around the potential legislation are scarce, UCP government house leader Joseph Schow indicated the government plans to introduce a bill sponsored by Premier Danielle Smith called the Provincial Priorities Act.

What that bill will entail is still unknown, but Seniors, Community and Social Services Minister Jason Nixon said Friday that the province is “prepared” to introduce policy to prevent direct dealings between municipalities and the federal government.

“The days of the federal government being able to bypass us in our own jurisdiction and go directly to a mayor that they may or may not have a previous relationship with are coming to an end in this province,” he told reporters.

Nixon said the province is exploring legislation similar to a law in Quebec called the Act respecting the Ministère du Conseil exécutif.

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That law prevents municipalities and others from entering into or negotiating deals with the federal government or its agencies without getting approval from Quebec’s provincial government.

“I think that indicates to you just how far we’re prepared to go to defend our jurisdiction,” Nixon said.

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Nixon’s comments come following a slew of pre-federal budget funding announcements throughout Alberta last week, including $600 million to boost pre-fab housing solutions.

The provincial proposal received swift reaction at Calgary City Hall on Tuesday as Mayor Jyoti Gondek accused the province of playing politics.

“If we have a provincial government that’s going to step in and prohibit us from receiving funding that we desperately need for housing, it’s simply going to slow things down and will make life worse for Calgarians, not better,” she told reporters.

“For a government that talks about cutting red tape and overreach, this is rich.”

Funding direct from the federal government for projects and initiatives isn’t uncommon for cities and towns in Alberta.

Most recently, both Calgary and Edmonton each signed multi-million-dollar funding deals through the federal government’s Housing Accelerator Fund to increase housing stock in both cities.

Ward 8 councillor Courtney Walcott criticized the province’s sentiments, and shared concerns the move is an attempt to “slow down funding,” and that the move will hurt “everyone involved.”

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“I think that’s a way for them to control the funding distribution so they can take credit for it, not for them to actually provide the best services for the public,” Walcott said.

However, not all city councillors were critical of the potential of the province stepping in between the federal government and Alberta municipalities.

“What I’ve heard from the province is they feel that the federal government is actually playing favourites with mayors and councils that are friendly to them, and I don’t think that should be the case,” Ward 13 councillor Dan McLean said.

But Gondek doesn’t feel the city is getting fair treatment from either the provincial or federal governments, with a growing funding gap the city estimates at $311 million annually due to the offloading of jurisdictional responsibilities onto Calgary.

The mayor highlighted several investments in this year’s municipal budget around affordable housing, public safety and transit.

“Frankly, not one of those things in the sole responsibility of our government, yet we were the only one that invested enough to keep Calgarians safe, to keep them housed and to keep them active on transit,” Gondek said. “That resulted in a property tax increase that no one wanted.”

She added that the situation is “incredibly frustrating” for local governments across the province in the middle of a political battle between two higher orders of government that she likened to “mom and dad.”

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“Tired of it.  Cities deserve better,” Gondek said. “We deserve two orders of government that want to work with us and with each other. The time for politicking was over a long time ago.”

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs did not respond to Global News’ request for comment on the matter.

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