Overview

A viability review is a process that helps municipalities determine their ability to continue as a municipality or develop a plan that leads to viability.

The process brings decision makers together and empowers communities to make decisions about their future through collaboration and cooperation.

The review analyzes the municipality's:

  • governance
  • finances
  • infrastructure
  • services

The review evaluates if a municipality is viable and can provide recommendations to achieve this. It’s not meant to examine municipal councils or administrative practices.

Each viability review is unique to the specific municipality and the length of time varies dependent upon multiple factors, including the completion of the infrastructure audit and council and staff vacancies. The typical viability review timeline is 20 months.

Cost

The cost of a review varies depending on the complexity and time it takes to complete.

Costs are distributed between Municipal Affairs, municipalities and municipal associations as follows.

Municipal Affairs

  • ministry staff time and materials for researching, writing, printing and distributing information and reports
  • the cost of public meetings and community engagement activities
  • a municipal grant to pay for the infrastructure audit

Municipalities

  • costs of municipal staff to compile information
  • travel costs to meetings
  • costs of additional council meetings
  • remuneration for councillors to attend review meetings

Municipal associations

  • travel costs to meetings and remuneration for association representatives to attend review meetings

Review process

Step 1. Begin a review

A review can be started in one of 3 ways:

Council request

Councils can write to the Minister of Municipal Affairs to request a review if:

  • they have completed the self-assessment questionnaire
  • they have implemented the mitigation tools found in the capacity building toolkit
  • they believe the municipality is in jeopardy or no longer sustainable

A completed self-assessment questionnaire must be included with the written request.

Citizen petition

Citizens of a municipality can petition the Minister of Municipal Affairs to begin a review.

To petition the minister, citizens must complete a petition that includes:

  • the signatures of 30% of the municipality’s eligible voters (50% of eligible voters for summer villages)
  • a statement of representative of petitioners
  • an affidavit for each person that witnessed signatures

All legislated requirements for petitions are outlined in the information handout on petitions.

Before starting a petition, citizens should contact the Municipal Viability Team by phone at 780-427-2225 or email at viabilityreview@gov.ab.ca.

Minister’s discretion

The Minister of Municipal Affairs can initiate a viability review if they believe it’s warranted.

Step 2. Ministry screening

After a council request or citizen petition, a screening will be completed to help the minister decide if a review or another process is necessary. This can involve staff gathering information and documents to understand any issues and why the request or petition was made.

Step 3. Information collection

If the minister decides a viability review is necessary, information will be collected to be analyzed by a viability review team.

The review team includes representatives from:

The information collected for review comes from:

  • ministry staff
  • information supplied by the municipality being reviewed
  • information supplied by the receiving municipality
  • the municipality’s infrastructure assessment or audit
  • stakeholder engagement and community involvement, which can include:
    • written submissions
    • surveys
    • open houses
    • public meetings

During a review, municipalities can apply for funding through the Alberta Community Partnership program to pay for the completion of an infrastructure assessment.

Step 4. Recommendations and options

After the review, the viability review team provides a report to the municipality.

The report includes 2 options for the municipality:

  • recommendations for the municipality to reach viability
  • a description of the changes and impacts to residents if the municipality was dissolved

The report is also sent to residents and presented at a public meeting.

Residents and the municipality under review, as well as the receiving municipality, have 30 days to provide written comments, including their preferred option, to the minister.

Step 5. Public vote

If after reviewing comments of residents and councils, the minister decides a vote will be held, it is administered by Municipal Affairs staff in accordance with the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA).

To be eligible to vote, a person must be:

  • at least 18 years of age
  • a Canadian citizen
  • a resident of Alberta and their place of residence is located in the local jurisdiction on election day
  • According to the LAEA, residents of another municipality, or who own property but whose primary place of residence is not in that municipality, are not eligible to vote
    • a person’s primary residence is usually the one to which their tax returns are addressed,is on their driver’s licence, or the address their mail is addressed and delivered

In order to vote, eligible electors must produce identification for inspection. Acceptable forms of identified can be found here: Voter Identification Requirements

A public vote is held on the following two options:

  1. Implement changes to achieve viability, or
  2. Dissolve and become part of a neighbouring municipality

If a majority of residents vote for option one (implement changes), the minister may issue directives which the review municipality must comply with. If the majority of residents vote for option 2 (dissolve), minister is required to recommend dissolution to the provincial cabinet, who will then make the final decision on dissolution.

For more information about dissolution, see the Dissolution section on Municipal restructuring.

Depending on the outcome of the vote, the minister will either issue a ministerial directive or recommend municipal dissolution to the cabinet, who will make the final decision to dissolve the municipality.

Active viability reviews

Town of Granum

Current status

  • A vote of the electors of Granum on the question of dissolution was conducted on November 6 and 6, 2019. Of the 254 valid ballots cast, 26 per cent (66 ballots) supported remaining as a town, while 74 per cent (188 ballots) supported dissolving and becoming a hamlet in the Municipal District of Willow Creek No. 26.
  • Pursuant to Section 130.2(2) of the Municipal Government Act, the Minister is required to recommend dissolution to the Lieutenant Governor in Council.
  • The town will continue to operate as usual, under the governance of the appointed Official Administrator, pending the decision of the Lieutenant-Governor in Council.

Past activities

  • A viability screening of the Town of Granum was conducted in August 2018, following a sufficient petition requesting the Minister of Municipal Affairs to conduct a viability review.
  • A presentation was made to council regarding viability reviews of January 8, 2019.
  • In October 2019, the Minister call for a vote of Granum electors on the question of dissolution, to be conducted November 6 and 7, 2019. Special (mail in) ballots were available for residents unable to attend the polling station.
  • In October 2019, Municipal Affairs provided residents, businesses, and property owners with the Town of Granum Viability Report, how the community would be governed and serviced if it continued as a stand-alone municipality, and how it would be governed and serviced if the town corporation was to dissolve and the community was to become part of the Municipal District of Willow Creek.
  • On October 23, 2019, Municipal Affairs conducted a public information session to review the viability plan and the scheduled vote of electors.

Public notices and reports

Town of Manning

Current status

On June 3, 2019, the minister approved that a viability review will be undertaken for the Town of Manning, as the result of a request from the Town of Manning Council.

Public notices and reports

Village of Bawlf

Current status

  • The minister approved a viability review on October 24, 2018 for the Village of Bawlf. The village was approved for infrastructure study funding through the Alberta Community Partnership grant on January 23, 2019.

Past activities

  • A viability screening of the Village of Bawlf was conducted in August 2018, following a sufficient resident petition.

Public notices and reports

Village of Cereal

Current status

  • A viability review team (VRT) consisting of representatives of the village, Special Areas, and four provincial associations has begun to meet to review Cereal’s governance, operational capacity, finances, and infrastructure for report on viability that will be provided to residents and property owners.
  • The VRT will continue to meet to discuss recommendations to be included within the viability report.
  • Municipal Affairs will hold a public engagement session for residents of Cereal in order to share information, receive community input and answer questions about the viability review itself.

Past activities

  • A viability screening of the Village of Cereal was conducted in April 2018, following assessment of the Key Measures for Success.
  • The minister approved on June 13, 2018 that a viability review will be undertaken for the Village of Cereal. The village was approved for Alberta Community Partnership funding for the infrastructure study on September 25, 2018.

Public notices and reports

Village of Dewberry

Current status

The minister approved a viability review will be undertaken (in response to a council request and after a viability screening) and infrastructure study funding through the Alberta Community Partnership grant on January 23, 2019.

Public notices and reports

Village of Ferintosh

Current status

  • The Village of Ferintosh will be dissolved effective December 31, 2019.
  • The Village and Camrose County are working together for a smooth transition of governance, administration and services.
  • Council continues to govern the village until December 31, 2019.

Past activities

  • A public meeting to present the report and receive public input was held on October 1, 2018 at the Little Beaver Hi U Senior Centre.
  • Ministry staff began information collection activities in fall 2016.
  • The village (funded by Municipal Affairs) completed an infrastructure audit.
  • The VRT established by Alberta Municipal Affairs will examine local governance and operations, services and infrastructure, and finances and property taxes to develop a comprehensive viability plan for consideration by Ferintosh residents and the Minister of Municipal Affairs.
  • A pre-vote public information meeting was held from 7 pm to 9 pm on December 3, 2018 at the Little Beaver Hi U Senior Centre, 203 Glenmere, Ferintosh.
  • A vote of the electors was conducted December 10, 2018, from 4 to 8 pm and December 11, 2018 from 10 am to 4 pm at the Little Beaver Hi U Senior Centre, 203 Glenmere, Ferintosh.
  • 52 (46%) voters voted in favour of option 1 (that the Village of Ferintosh remains a village and implements changes to achieve viability. 60 (54%) voters voted for option 2 (dissolve the Village of Ferintosh and Ferintosh becomes part of Camrose County).

Public notices and reports

Village of Gadsby

Current Status

A vote of the village electors on the question of dissolution was conducted on November 13 and 14, 2019, in accordance with the Local Authorities Election Act. Of the 28 votes cast, 3.6 per cent supported remaining as a village, while 96.4 per cent supported dissolving and becoming a hamlet in the County of Stettler.

As the electors voted that the village should be dissolved, the Minister is required to recommend dissolution to the Lieutenant Governor in Council (Cabinet) pursuant to Section 130.2(2) of the Municipal Government Act

The village will continue to operate as usual, under the governance of the appointed Official Administrator, pending the decision of the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

Viability Review Report

The Village of Gadsby Viability Review Report was distributed to village residents and property owners on October 18, 2019 along with a letter providing notice of the public meeting and vote on the question of dissolution of the village.

The report provides:

  • an analysis of the current state of the village
  • recommendations to assist the village council and administration address the viability of Gadsby, should it remain an incorporated village (Option 1)
  • a description of what residents could expect to happen if the Village of Gadsby dissolves to become a hamlet in the County of Stettler (Option 2), and
  • information about the final steps in the viability review

Public notices and reports

Village of Wabamun

Current status

  • On November 1, 2019, the minister approved that an expedited viability review will be undertaken for the Village of Wabamun.

Completed viability reviews

Town of Grande Cache

The Town of Grande Cache was dissolved and became part of the Municipal District of Greenview on January 1, 2019.

Public notices and reports

Village of Berwyn

Current status

Following a vote of electors in which electors voted to remain a village, the minister provided the Village of Berwyn with directives through a Ministerial Order to ensure continued viability. The village will continue to report on the implementation of the directives until June 2023.

Public notices and reports

Village of Champion

Current status

The minister decided on December 11, 2018, based on the input from the public and the VRT, a vote would not be conducted and viability directives were issued.

The village completed its update regarding progress on the minister’s directives in May 2019 and will provide annual updates until June 1, 2023.

Public notices and reports

Village of Clyde

Current status

The minister reviewed the council decision and the recommendations from the VRT and issued directives (MO No: MSL:054/16) to the municipality. The village is providing annual reports until June 1, 2021 to the ministry on the completion of the directives.

Public notices and reports

Village of Hill Spring

Current status

The minister issued directives (MO No: MSL:122/17) to the municipality on December 19, 2017.

The village is directed to develop an action plan (including timelines) as to how the council plans to address each of the recommendations in the viability plan, to prepare a 10-year capital plan, and to provide copies of the 2 plans to Municipal Affairs.

The village is to report to the ministry annually, until June 1, 2023, on the progress of the implementation of the plans.

Public notices and reports

Village of Hussar

Current status

The minister issued directives (MO No: MSL:072/18) to the municipality on October 3, 2018.

The village is directed to develop an action plan (including timelines) as to how the council plans to address each of the recommendations in the viability plan, to prepare a 10-year capital plan, and to provide copies of the 2 plans to Municipal Affairs.

The village is to report to the ministry annually, until June 1, 2023, on the progress of the implementation of the plans.

Public Notices and Reports

Village of Innisfree

Current status

Following a vote of electors in which electors voted to remain a village, the minister provided the Village of Innisfree with directives through a Ministerial Order to ensure continued viability. The village will continue to report on the implementation of the directives until June 2023.

Public notices and reports

Questions about the viability review can be directed to Municipal Sustainability.

Village of Rycroft

Current status

The minister issued directives (MO No: MSL:055/18) to the municipality on July 19, 2018.

The village is directed to develop an action plan (including timelines) as to how the council plans to address each of the recommendations in the viability plan, to prepare a 10-year capital plan, and to provide copies of the 2 plans to Municipal Affairs.

The village is to report to the ministry annually, until June 1, 2023, on the progress of the implementation of the plans.

Public notices and reports

Contact

Connect with Municipal Sustainability:

Phone: 780-427-2225
Toll free: 310-0000 before the phone number (in Alberta)
Email: viabilityreview@gov.ab.ca