CALGARY - The Alberta government has committed to a new legislative framework by next year that will govern how all municipalities in the province will operate.
The current Municipal Government Act came into effect almost two decades ago and was to be updated a couple of years ago. But was delayed as a result of the 2013 floods and municipal elections.
A memorandum of understanding was signed by Alberta Premier Jim Prentice and municipal representatives on Thursday. It focuses on eight areas that include provincial-municipal relations, regional decision-making, property assessment and taxation and growth management.
Prentice said he heard about municipal concerns last summer while he was door-knocking during his run for the Tory leadership.
"Everywhere I went I heard the need for collaboration between our municipalities and the province. I formed the view that the Municipal Government Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation in this province."
Prentice didn't commit to giving municipalities expanded powers when it comes to taxation, although he said current financial realities brought about by lower oil prices will factor in.
The president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association said Prentice seems to recognize that the act needed to be redone quickly.
"We had dates thrown around as far out as 2018 and we said, 'No, we really need to get this done now.' It says they are serious about their commitment to get a new agreement in place," said Helen Rice.
"We viewed it as a huge step forward when the province began referring to us as partners."
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said even though it is only a memorandum of understanding, it is a "pretty big deal."
"It commits to dates. We've been talking about an ... amendment at least since I've been mayor. The fact they are committing to move forward, it really means the government of Alberta is being serious about the need for legislative reform."
Nenshi said he isn't sure if municipalities will be given new taxing powers.
"A debate we are continuing to have is does it make more sense for municipalities to levy their own taxes, or does it make more sense for municipalities to have a guaranteed share of provincial revenues?" he said.
"I've always been agnostic about it. We must have funding resources that are predictable, stable and long term."
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