New rules for cities

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Next bunch of MGA regulations reviewed

St. Albert mayor Nolan Crouse says he likes what he sees when it comes to new regulations the province released this week for the Municipal Government Act, but he is “ticked off” that they didn’t include rules for the Capital Region Board.

Alberta Municipal Affairs released its second group of regulations for the revised Municipal Government Act Monday.

The act is the province’s second-largest law and governs how municipalities operate. The province has been updating its regulations to reflect recent changes to the act, and has been releasing its proposed tweaks in chunks for public comment.

The first chunk dealt with issues such as capital plans and public consultation, and was out for review from Jan. 31 to March 31. This second group addresses intermunicipal co-operation, off-site levies and taxes.

It does not address the new Capital Region Board, which Crouse said left him “really ticked off.” Regulations for the new board have been on the Municipal Affairs minister’s desk for months.

“We’re 90 days from an election with no regulations for the new board.”

Likes and dislikes

Crouse said he approved of the proposed new rules to have councils create codes of conduct, as it gave councils an alternative to dysfunction and provincial inspections.

“We’re already ahead of the game,” he added, as the city’s code of conduct was set for a final vote this August.

Sturgeon County Mayor Tom Flynn said that it would be challenging for the county to meet proposed regulatory requirements for governments to create intermunicipal collaboration frameworks with all its neighbours within two years, as there are about 12 neighbouring governments.

“We have all the towns and the city and everything that borders us all the way around. It’s a big job.”

One new regulation, if implemented, would let municipalities charge sand and gravel companies 40 cents per tonne of aggregate shipped instead of the current 25-cent maximum. The change would reflect inflation and help governments maintain roads and bridges affected by heavy industry, the province said.

The county currently has a 25-cent levy on its sand and gravel operators and brought in about $607,000 through it last year, said county corporate support manager Rick Wojtkiw. It’s too soon to tell if council would change to a 40-cent rate, but had that been in place last year, the county would have collected about $971,000.

John Ashton, executive director of the Alberta Sand and Gravel Association, said companies have long expected a hike in levies, but were upset that the regulations did not set rules to hold governments accountable for the use of this cash.

“We need transparency on how these funds are used and where these funds go,” he said.

Sturgeon County was a great example of transparency done right, he continued: its gravel levies are distributed through a committee made of equal numbers of civilian, council and industry representatives which directs the cash towards projects such as the new Calahoo community hall.

The regulations would also make the province, not municipalities, responsible for setting tax rates for certain major industrial sites. In Sturgeon County, those sites are the Sturgeon Refinery, Redwater Agrium, Evonik Canada and Pembina NGL plants.

Industry has wanted this change for years, said Laurie Danielson of the Northeast Capital Industrial Association, which represents the companies in the Alberta Industrial Heartland. Right now, a plant in Red Deer can be taxed at a different rate than the same plant in Fort Saskatchewan due to inconsistent local assessors. Centralized assessment would eliminate this problem.

But it’s unclear what impact this change would have, as it looks like the province will contract this work out to municipalities for the next few years anyway. The change also won’t kick in until 2019.

“The province did not go as far as we wanted them to go,” Danielson said.

The proposed rules are up for comment until Sept. 22. Read them at mgareview.alberta.ca/get-involved/regulations-review.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.