Status: Under review
Ministry responsible: Municipal Affairs
The Government of Alberta, the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary have developed city charters that will provide additional authorities and flexibility to the cities with the aim of building strong, vibrant cities that attract trade and investment.
The need for City Charters
Calgary and Edmonton are currently governed by the Municipal Government Act, a one-size-fits-all approach to governing Alberta’s 342 municipalities. Alberta's two biggest cities follow the same rules as Gadsby, a town of 25 people, and have the same powers as summer villages such as Ghost Lake.
As Alberta’s main centres, Calgary and Edmonton face a unique set and scale of population pressures and demands for services:
- they are home to about half of the province’s population
- 9 out of 10 international immigrants who move to Alberta settle in its two urban centres
- Calgary and Edmonton must provide top-notch services to local residents, but also to Albertans who converge in the major hubs for work and pleasure, and to access goods and specialized services
- city growth puts pressure on roads, playgrounds, bridges, sidewalks, recreation centres, sewage and water systems
- more people put high demand on public services, including hospitals and schools
The Government of Alberta, the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary are collaborating on charter policies in 5 key areas:
- administrative efficiency
- supporting community and well-being
- smarter community planning
- empowering local environmental stewardship
Public and stakeholder engagement
Stakeholders and members of the public reviewed policy proposals and provided feedback during information sessions held in Edmonton and Calgary in October 2016. This input was compiled in a What we Heard report (PDF, 949 KB) and was considered during the development of the draft city charters regulation.
The draft city charters regulation was posted for public and stakeholder review and comment from August 10 to October 10, 2017, and again from January 5 to March 5, 2018.
This feedback was used to inform changes to the draft regulation.
- Oct 2014: The Government of Alberta, the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary signed an agreement to develop city charters (PDF, 500 KB) to support the cities’ unique needs.
- Nov 2015, Jan 2016: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson met with the Premier and members of Cabinet to present their vision for a strengthened relationship between the province and the two cities.
- Oct 2016: During city charters information sessions held in Edmonton and Calgary, stakeholders and members of the public reviewed policy proposals and provided feedback.
- Dec 2016: The 3 government parties reviewed all public and stakeholder feedback to inform the development of the city charters.
- Winter 2017: City charters were drafted for Calgary and Edmonton.
- Summer 2017: Draft city charters regulation was posted online for 60 days (Aug. 10 to Oct. 10) for public and stakeholder comment.
- Winter 2018: Draft city charters regulation was posted for additional public and stakeholder comment from Jan 5. to Mar. 5.
- Spring 2018: City charters will be enacted as regulations under the Municipal Government Act.
About City Charters
A city charter provides a city with specific flexibilities and authorities to better meet the needs of citizens. The city charters for Calgary and Edmonton will enable the cities to modify or replace provisions in the Municipal Government Act or any other provincial Act or regulation, where the province has specifically granted it authority to do so. Unless explicitly outlined in the charters, all other legislation will continue to apply to the two cities.
City charters are enabling, meaning that the Cities of Calgary and Edmonton can choose if and when they would like to use the additional authorities they are granted through charters. In doing so, the cities still need to undergo their own municipal public engagement processes, such as public hearings prior to passing bylaws.
City charters will include both regulatory changes and a collaboration agreement (PDF, 36 KB). The collaboration agreement will support ongoing, long-term coordination between the two cities and the Government of Alberta. The collaboration agreement is a commitment by the 3 governments to cooperate on emerging matters of mutual interest.
The collaboration agreement highlights 3 policy and planning tables – forums for representatives from the cities and province to regularly work towards joint goals regarding:
- social policy
- environment and climate change
The policy and planning tables will develop workplans and priorities, and are committed to report their progress to the public and elected officials.
Municipal Government Act (MGA)
The MGA guides how all municipalities in Alberta operate. The MGA will continue to be an important piece of legislation for Alberta municipalities, including Calgary and Edmonton. However, the charters are an opportunity for the cities to develop unique approaches to delivering the services citizens need and expect - services that are at a scale and level of complexity not seen elsewhere in Alberta.
The cities of Calgary and Edmonton and province have agreed to a scope of work to develop a renewed fiscal framework that will consider the following elements.
New infrastructure funding formula
The province has agreed to work with the cities to replace the existing capital grants system with a funding formula based on provincial revenues.
This would mean that the cities share in the variability of provincial revenues. It provides greater predictability for both the cities and the province. This would also mean that funding would grow with the economy, which would allow cities to make investments to keep up with growth pressures.
This new system would provide predictability to both the cities and the province about funding levels, and recognize the important role that the cities have in making investments that support economic growth in Alberta.
The three parties will explore options for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of existing municipal authorities.
This will be limited to authorities that are currently authorized by the Municipal Government Act, and may include changes to the length and duration of Local Improvement Taxes. The three governments will also review eligible uses for special taxes to determine if the current list is appropriate for modern infrastructure projects.
Improve the administration of the destination marketing fee
The three parties will explore potential opportunities to improve the administration of the existing voluntary destination marketing fee that is charged by some hotels. The goal is to enhance the transparency and accountability of the revenue generated from the fee, which will continue to be directed towards tourism activities.
Increase municipal responsibility for debt management
The three parties have agreed to develop options for increasing accountability of the cities for their debt by allowing them to adopt their own stringent debt management policies, including the need to get a credit rating. This recognizes the cities’ capacity to manage their own debt.
Currently both Edmonton and Calgary’s policies far exceed the minimum standards set out in the MGA, and this will allow them to set out stringent and accountable standards for themselves.
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