Changes made to Municipal Government Act

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The provincial government has made several changes to the Municipal Government Act (MGA), which sets the rules for how municipal governments in Alberta function and provide services to its citizens.

Some changes will come into effect immediately, while some will come into effect in 2018.

“The changes to the legislation are extensive,” City of Airdrie manager Paul Schulz said. “There are a number of changes throughout the act that we’re going to have to comply with.”

One of those changes includes the requirement of 10 municipalities in the Calgary area, including Airdrie, to join a mandated Growth Management Board (GMB). The board commences Jan. 1, 2018, and each municipality is required to appoint a primary representative from its council to sit on the board.

Mayor Peter Brown said he believes the GMB is a necessity.

“The majority of tax dollars go to a number of different programs but some of the most expensive ones are water, wastewater and road infrastructure and development,” he said. “So it’s important that all of us are working on the same page, that we’re prioritizing developments that are going to require provincial support, federal support.”

He said in the past, municipalities have met with government officials separately to ask for the same thing.

“It’s really important for communities like Airdrie that are growing as quickly as we are, and with neighbouring municipalities that are growing as quickly as they are, as well, that we’re in tune and that we’re going to the government and we’re prioritizing together,” he said.

Another new requirement in the MGA is for municipalities to offer orientation training within 90 days after councillors take office. Schulz said the City developed an extensive orientation program with the new council elected Oct. 16.

“They’ve been in meetings and learning and we cover all the items that’s required by the act,” Schulz said.

The MGA has been under review since 2012. An online discussion guide was introduced in the Alberta Legislature in May 2016 and Albertans were encouraged to provide feedback. The MGA was passed in December 2016 and a number of amendments were introduced in April 2017.

One of those amendments, which has now been passed, includes allowing municipal governments to enact parental leave bylaws, allowing councillors parental leave. If a municipality chooses to do so, the bylaw must contain provisions in respect to the length of leave and address how the municipality will be represented during periods of leave.

According to a press release issued by the Province Oct. 26, the updated MGA ensures municipalities are governed in an open, transparent manner and keeps councils accountable. The last time the MGA was extensively updated was in 1995.

“A lot has changed since then, including the needs of our communities. I am proud of the work we’ve done with local governments and stakeholders to modernize the MGA,” Shaye Anderson, Minister of Municipal Affairs, said in the release. “The updated piece of legislation provides municipalities the tools and resources they need to build strong communities and make lives better for Albertans.”

For more information, visit alberta.ca

– with files from Christina Waldner

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