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Critics argue Bill 28 still removeslocal autonomy

By: Sara Wilson

  |  Posted: Thursday, Dec 12, 2013 10:33 am

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After calls for reform on Bill 28, the Alberta government has adopted and made changes to the controversial bill, that will now make it voluntary for municipalities to join Growth Management Boards.

The amendments also include softer penalties for officials that do not comply with the government’s growth models.

However, the move isn’t sitting well with opposition critics.

“There still a lot of red flags especially concerning Airdrie,” Airdrie MLA and Finance Critic Rob Anderson said. “The main problem is the legislation opens up for a fourth level of government, I’m worried about it being used to take away from autonomy from municipalities.”

Anderson explained he has sent correspondence to Airdrie City council advising them of his stance against the bill.

“I’ve expressed to Airdrie council to definitely not join one of the Regional Governance boards, unless the criteria is laid out first,” he said.

The Wildrose MLA believes participation should be voluntary to enter into the governance boards, but it must be voluntary to exit as well. Anderson is also concerned that the bill will open Airdrie up to density requirements and fall victim to a “Calgary Veto vote.”

“Airdrie City council were concerned about the first (draft) bill, which said it was mandatory to join,” Anderson said. “Now it’s up to the council if they want to join a board if they want, my hope is that they won’t.”

The government announced on Nov. 28 that the bill now clarifies that Growth Management Boards are a voluntary initiative and includes softened penalty clauses that aren’t focused on individuals.

“I have spent the last month consulting our municipal partners to ensure they have the tools they need to plan for future growth,” Doug Griffiths, Municipal Affairs minister said.

One of the bill’s primary goals was to allow the Province to assume stricter controls over development throughout the province’s municipalities.

According to critics, the bill – in its first draft - would establish the Province’s authority to force municipalities to enter into regional planning boards like the Capital Region Board or the Calgary Regional Partnership and impose strict controls on the governing bodies.

According to Premier Allison Redford, who released a statement on the controversial bill to media on Oct. 31, “given (that) Bill 28 is at, in the Legislative process, the time is right to consult with municipal leaders to ensure the bill properly allows communities to work together, while maintaining local autonomy for the betterment of the people they serve.”

City of Airdrie Mayor, Peter Brown was pleased about the decision to accept input from municipalities back in October.

“There was no consultation with the people that it would have affected,” Brown said on Oct. 31. “All I wanted was more time to get educated (on the bill).”

According to the government’s task force members sat down with municipal officials and asked for input from mayors and reeves, on the legislation to make it reflect the needs of municipalities to improve the quality of life of their residents.

“The AUMA appreciates that Premier Redford heard our concerns and struck the task force that empowered municipalities to make these changes to Bill 28,” Bob Barss, president of the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties said.


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