City hall could soon be a more powerful place in Calgary and Edmonton as the province takes another step closer to implementing new city charter agreements with Alberta’s two largest municipalities.
Contrary to speculation by some critics of the charter talks, the cities won’t receive any new taxation powers.
“The Government of Alberta has collaborated with the cities of Edmonton and Calgary to strengthen the existing partnership and enhance our collective ability to tackle the challenges facing Albertans,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson.
LISTEN: The province, Edmonton and Calgary sign an agreement to tackle local issues like housing and transportation planning.
Under the proposed changes to the Municipal Government Act (MGA), Calgary and Edmonton would gain a number of new powers including:
– Authority for increased use of new technology, including the ability to offer assessment and tax notices electronically.
– Approval to delegate the power of council to another person or group on matters like secondary suite applications.
– Controlling the operating hours of bars.
– Authority to run multi-year operating deficits.
– The ability to make localized changes to the Traffic Safety Act on items like speed limit and rules on back-in parking.
– Approval to offer loans to individuals and developers to encourage affordable housing.
– Allow for the creation of new tribunals to deal with parking and transit infractions.
The province and the cities have been discussing the possibility of new powers under a charter since the fall of 2014.
“Today is a major step forward for city charters for Alberta’s two largest cities,” said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
“The proposed charter provisions and collaboration agreement dramatically reduce red tape between governments, making it easier for us to provide more efficient and better services to our citizens.”
The province is also requiring the cities to develop climate change plans to ensure the municipalities are “doing their part” in addressing the impacts of climate change. However, cities will not be allowed to create local carbon taxes to fund upgrades to make facilities and operations more energy efficient.
While no new taxation authority is being given to the cities, there are a number of changes being explored when it comes to financial matters.
LISTEN: Newstalk 770’s Reporter John Himpe joins Rob Breakenridge on air to chat about this story.
A new infrastructure funding formula with the province would see the current capital grants system replaced by a scheme tied to provincial revenues. The cities and the province would also engage in conversations about ways to provide better accounting and transparency for the revenue from the existing “destination marketing fee” charged by some hotels. Talks are also underway on putting the management of city debt more firmly in the hands of the municipalities.
“Today’s commitment to move towards implementing a new funding formula, to replace expiring capital grant funding, is very welcomed news,” said Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson.
“It’s an acknowledgement of Calgary and Edmonton’s advocacy efforts, along with a collaborative partner in the provincial government, to recognize the impacts our cities have in Alberta’s overall economy.”
The city charter changes to the MGA are open for public discussion until Oct. 10. The proposed changes to infrastructure funding, the destination marketing fee and debt management are still being discussed and likely won’t be presented in their final form until the end of the year.