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If passed, the act will support the delivery of job-creating capital support to municipalities in Budget 2021 by amending the Local Government Fiscal Framework Act. It extends capital funding under the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) to 2023-24 and defers the introduction of the Local Government Fiscal Framework until 2024-25.
The proposed act also protects lives by supporting the modernization of emergency 911 systems through amendments to the Emergency 911 Act. The act makes nine secondary 911 centres eligible for funding from a 51-cent larger wireless 911 levy.
“Upgrading 911 systems is a public safety issue. Albertans will continue to have safe, reliable services when they call 911 during an emergency. By front-loading MSI funding in 2021-22 and allowing funding to be spread over multiple years, we’re providing municipalities the flexibility to plan according to their needs.”
“In our experience with Alberta’s One Line for Sexual Violence, a provincial text, talk and web-chat sexual violence support and information line, this technology provides access, control, anonymity, and psychological safety for survivors that makes it easier for them to reach out. We are pleased to see enhanced access to 911 emergency services across the province through similar technological advances. Text capability can offer survivors of domestic and sexual violence a safe and discrete option to reach out to 911 if they are in danger.”
“Sagesse supports Bill 56 and the greater access to emergency services it will provide to all Albertans, particularly the most vulnerable. We need 911 texting capability in every county, city, town and hamlet across this province. As many as one in three Albertans are not safe at home, and they need a discrete way to contact emergency services. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many victims of domestic and sexual violence have been isolated with their abusers, and the deployment of 911 texting capability will provide a safer way for them to get help.”
“Enhancing access to Alberta's 911 centres will help to better inform and improve emergency service response, benefit citizens by connecting them to first responders faster, while also including a texting option for individuals who need to reach out in emergency situations where they cannot safely call or talk on the phone. This progressive approach will be a game-changer for public safety and first responders.”
Over the next three years, municipalities will receive an average of $722 million per year in capital funding under MSI. This funding is front-loaded and can be spread out over five years so local governments have the flexibility to plan according to their needs.
The Local Government Fiscal Framework (LGFF) provides predictable, sustainable and legislated infrastructure funding tied to changes in provincial revenues. Under the LGFF, municipalities will receive a baseline funding level of $722 million in 2024-25 plus an escalator based on provincial revenues.
To cover the costs of federally mandated 911 upgrades, 51 cents will be added to the existing 911 levy on monthly cellphone bills, effective Sept 1. This is in line with other provinces.
Once system upgrades are completed by 2024, Albertans will be able to text 911 in situations when they cannot call, first responders will get additional details including more accurate location information, and calls will be transferred seamlessly from one centre to another using the same technology.
- Budget 2021 allocates the following MSI capital funding to municipalities:
- $1.2 billion in 2021-22
- $485 million in 2022-23
- $485 million in 2023-24
- Alberta’s government provided $500 million to municipalities under the Municipal Stimulus Program in 2020-21 as part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, much of which will be spent in 2021.
- Alberta’s 911 centres will spend an additional $41 million per year to modernize and meet the federally mandated Next Generation 911 (NG911) technology standard by March 30, 2024.
- Currently, the 911 levy charges cellphone users 44 cents per month.
- An increase of 51 cents will make the monthly levy total 95 cents.
- Municipalities pay for about half the 911 costs. The remaining costs are funded through wireless and landline 911 levies.
- Primary 911 centres receive calls directly from the public and determine the nature of the emergency, caller location and what emergency service is required. Secondary centres evaluate the caller’s needs and dispatch emergency services accordingly.
- Currently, agencies that operate secondary 911 centres pay for all 911 costs.
- The new 911 Standards will apply to all primary and secondary 911 call centres in Alberta and include sections on cybersecurity requirements and timelines for call centres to upgrade to the new 911 technology.