The amendments that fall under this question aim to improve municipal accountability, transparency, and viability, as well as re-frame the relationship between municipalities and the Province.

After hearing from Albertans about how this is important, we developed these MGA amendments to support how municipalities are empowered to govern.

Refocusing the Provincial-Municipal Relationship

Preamble for the Municipal Government Act

What’s currently in place: A preamble is an introductory statement used to explain the purpose of a document, set context and describe relationships. The MGA currently does not contain a preamble, but does describe the purpose of municipalities in Alberta.

What we heard: Municipalities have requested a formal acknowledgment of their role in providing services to Albertans. Municipalities have asked the province to approach interactions with municipalities in the spirit of collaboration and partnership to ensure their respective roles and responsibilities are understood.

What’s changing: A preamble will be incorporated into the MGA to describe the role of municipalities in relation to the Province of Alberta, their varying interests and capacity levels, and the importance of working together to advance the interests of all Albertans.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act.

Municipally Controlled For-Profit Corporations *Revised

What’s currently in place: Municipally controlled for-profit corporations are private corporations where a municipality or group of municipalities hold a majority of the shares. Although municipalities maintain the controlling interest in these corporations, day-to-day operations occur at arm’s length. Epcor, Enmax and Aquatera in Grande Prairie are all municipally controlled corporations.

Currently, municipalities submit applications to establish new municipally controlled corporations to the Minister of Municipal Affairs for review and approval.

What we heard: Municipalities are seeking greater flexibility and autonomy to establish municipally controlled corporations. Members of the public, as well as business and industry, have asked for stronger measures to ensure accountability and transparency regarding the establishment and operation of these corporations.

What’s changing: Municipalities will be able to establish these for-profit corporations without the requirement for ministerial approval. New procedural and consultative requirements focused on accountability and transparency, will be put in place to ensure the public has a meaningful opportunity to review new proposals for the corporations, and to provide input before final decisions are made.

**Updated Fall 2016**

Clarifications on procedural and consultative requirements for municipally controlled for-profit corporations were made through house amendments to the Modernized Municipal Government Act during the Fall 2016 session of the legislature. See what changed.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act and the development of the related regulation by fall 2017.

Enhancing Municipal Accountability and Transparency

Municipal Ombudsman and Municipal Inspections

What’s currently in place: The MGA provides a high degree of municipal autonomy, and largely leaves enforcement of the legislation at the local level through the courts. Municipalities are primarily accountable to their citizens through election and public participation processes. In certain circumstances, the Minister may step in. The province helps to protect the public interest and ensure that municipal actions and decisions are administered fairly through requirements in the MGA. Currently, citizens can petition the Minister for an audit or an inquiry, but not for an inspection.

What’s the issue: Albertans often call on the Minister of Municipal Affairs to get involved when they feel they have not been treated fairly by a municipality, or when they believe a municipality is not following rules. While the Minister has a role to play in some cases, many cases would be better investigated by an impartial party, such as the Alberta Ombudsman. Currently, the ombudsman’s authority only extends over the provincial government and certain professional organizations.

What we heard: Albertans suggested the current system does not always hold councils accountable between elections. They also indicated it can be confusing to petition the Minister to act on public concerns. Pursuing the matter through court can be too expensive for many citizens or businesses.

What’s changing: The mandate of the Alberta Ombudsman will be expanded to include municipalities. The MGA will also be amended to clarify petitioning processes for municipal inspections.

What this means: The Alberta Ombudsman will objectively investigate complaints to determine if a public organization has acted fairly and reasonably. The ombudsman will review the case to ensure actions and decisions were fair and consistent with relevant legislation, policies and procedures. Other changes to the MGA’s provisions on inspection and inquiry will mean citizens can petition the Minister for an audit or inspection on matters of municipal affairs, including the conduct of councillors, employees, agents and contractors of the municipality.

What’s next: Municipal audits, inspections and inquiries will continue under the current system until the legislative amendments are in effect. Cases partly underway will not be affected. Municipal Affairs is working with the Office of the Alberta Ombudsman to make sure its expanded mandate receives adequate supports.

When this takes effect: The re-structured petitioning provisions for municipal audits and inspections will be proclaimed by October 1, 2017. The Alberta Ombudsman is projected to accept municipal complaints starting April 1, 2018.

Composition on Local Appeal Boards, and Reporting Structure of the Municipal Government Board *Revised

What’s currently in place: Under the MGA, municipal councillors and public members may sit on municipal appeal boards. Councillors, who may approve projects while in their elected roles, may also sit on appeal boards ruling on those decisions because it can be difficult to recruit, train and retain public members to those positions, especially in smaller municipalities where appeals can be infrequent. Rules about the number of councillors who may sit on a board also differ between Assessment Review Boards and Subdivision and Development Appeal Boards. The MGA designates the Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs as the chair of the Municipal Government Board, although that authority may be delegated.

What we heard: Albertans expressed an overall desire for municipal appeal boards and the Municipal Government Board to be free from bias and conflict of interest to ensure decisions are made fairly.

What’s changing: Municipal councillors will be prohibited from forming the majority of any legislated appeal board hearing panel. This will be done by aligning the existing rules for Subdivision and Development Appeal Boards with those for Assessment Review Boards. The Chair of the Municipal Government Board will be appointed by Cabinet and report directly to the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

**Updated Fall 2016**

Clarifications related to jointly established appeal boards were made through house amendments to the Modernized Municipal Government Act during the fall 2016 session of the legislature. See what changed.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act.

Strengthening Municipal Capacity and Viability

Elected Official Training *Revised

What’s currently in place: Currently, the MGA does not require municipalities to offer training and orientation sessions to newly elected councillors following a municipal election.
What we heard: Albertans have expressed concern about the ability of elected officials (especially new ones) to do their jobs without thoroughly understanding their roles and what is expected of them.

What’s changing: Municipalities will be required to offer orientation training within 90 days to elected officials following each municipal election and by-elections on specific matters such as: role of municipalities in Alberta; council and councillor roles and responsibilities; Chief Administrative Officer and staff roles and responsibilities; and budgeting and financial administration.

**Updated Fall 2016**

Clarifications on the timing and content requirements for Elected Official orientation training were made through house amendments to the Modernized Municipal Government Act during the fall 2016 session of the legislature. See what changed.

When this takes effect: Upon proclamation of the Modernized Municipal Government Act.