Province launches online tool that lets Albertans see how municipal governments spend money

A file photo of someone typing on a keyboard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A new online tool that lets Albertans look more closely at how municipalities spend their dollars is aimed at improving accountability and local decision-making, according to the provincial government.

In a news release issued Monday, the government announced the Municipal Measurement Index is now online and allows citizens to view and compare statistics from various municipalities like property tax rates, major revenue or expense categories and assessment values and debt values.

“We want municipalities to be strong, fiscally responsible partners in the province’s economic recovery,” said Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard.

“With this tool, Albertans now have the ability to grade the performance of their local government.”

READ MORE: New report ranks Lethbridge as one of top per capita spenders among Alberta municipalities 

In a statement given to Global News on Monday night, the Opposition’s municipal affairs critic said he approved of increasing government transparency, but added that “criticizing these municipalities is an astounding level of hypocrisy after the auditor general found $1.6 billion in accounting errors in the UCP’s first year in government.”

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“And this comes after the UCP put municipalities in a difficult situation after cutting several sources of funding that have driven up property taxes across the province,” Joe Ceci said.

According to the government, the data used to create the comparisons is sourced from information provided by municipalities via audited financial statements, financial information returns, statistical information returns and other publicly available datasets.

Because of a combination of software limitations and security concerns, the new online tool is only viewable on laptop or desktop computers. The government said it is working to make the dashboard available for smartphones.

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Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi indicated he feels municipalities should have been more involved in creating the website.

“In my previous life, I spent a lot of time doing this kind of benchmarking work,” he said. “And best practice in this is to use really reliable data sources to really involve the people being measured in the conversation, to make sure you’re measuring the right things.

“I’m sorry to say that’s not really what happened here. This was just kind of sprung on us today.”

READ MORE: Alberta NDP voices concern over municipal funding

Nenshi said because he was busy at city hall on Monday, he had yet to look at the tool. He added that Allard has indicated the provincial government will work with municipalities to improve it.

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Watch below: Some Global News videos about Alberta municipalities.

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