Alberta municipalities say Bill 20 could cost tens of thousands to implement

Click to play video: 'Alberta municipalities fear Bill 20 will push untenable costs on small towns'
Alberta municipalities fear Bill 20 will push untenable costs on small towns
Small towns across Alberta worry they will soon have extra costs forced upon them, such as upgrading audio and visual systems to support online streaming, because of Bill 20 legislating virtual meetings for council business. Breanna Karstens-Smith spoke with officials from Duchess and Calmar about it – May 13, 2024

At least two rural municipalities are raising concerns about the cost to implement the Alberta government’s Bill 20.

The proposed legislation is sweeping and, among other changes, would require all municipalities to make their public hearings electronic.

While larger cities like Edmonton and Calgary already do that, not all others do.

“When we polled our communities, people are fine. They come to the council meeting,” Village of Duchess Coun. Deborah Reid-Mickler told Global News.

The village near Brooks in southeastern Alberta is home to about 1,000 people.

“If they want to come and ask a question, they come to council meeting and they’re happy to do that.”

Reid-Mickler said Duchess would have to upgrade its internet, buy equipment and potentially hire an IT professional.

Story continues below advertisement

Calmar Coun. Krista Gardner said that town south of Edmonton looked at upgrading its current audio video systems and was given a $30,000 estimate.

That is the equivalent of a one per cent tax increase for residents in that town.

“I don’t know if (the province is) solving the problems with this change that they think they’re trying to solve,” Gardner said Monday.

Click to play video: 'Alberta’s ‘unprecedented’ Bill 20 raises a lot of questions'
Alberta’s ‘unprecedented’ Bill 20 raises a lot of questions

Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver told reporters smaller communities could do a phone-in option for public hearings.

Financial news and insights delivered to your email every Saturday.

“We’re not anticipating a large cost,” he said. “This isn’t about requiring a full-blown TV station there or anything like that. It’s about having a way for people to have a way to participate in public hearings.”

Story continues below advertisement

But the rural municipalities say there are other costs. Bill 20 would also require municipalities to keep a permanent list of electors.

Reid-Mickler said they do not have the administrative staff to do that.

“I just fear that they’re going to push ahead with it and then we’re going to be stuck with hours and hours of costly fixing,” she said.

McIver is working on a number of amendments to the bill after criticism from dozens of municipal representatives.

There is no timeline on when those will be introduced but municipalities say they should have been consulted in the first place.

“It’s a little bit hard to say that they’re going to work with us on the implementation of these ideas when they didn’t even ask us in the first place if this was a problem,” Gardner said.

McIver has said he wants the bill to pass through the legislature by the end of May because of the October 2025 date for the next municipal elections.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton council unanimously votes to call for Bill 20 and Bill 18 to be scrapped'
Edmonton council unanimously votes to call for Bill 20 and Bill 18 to be scrapped

Sponsored content