By Greg Clark
Stronger municipalities means a stronger Alberta
Municipalities provide the majority of services that we use on a daily basis, including water, transit, recreation, fire protection, sewer, policing, roads and parks. Even though municipalities own 60% of all public infrastructure and deliver critical services, they only receive 8 cents of every dollar paid in taxes to all levels of government. Under the PCs, municipal governments are reliant on grants from the other orders of government and are only allowed to raise money through the property tax and user fees.
Our municipalities face some key challenges and the Alberta Party would address them head on.
The Alberta Party has a better way.
The Alberta Party believes we can make Alberta stronger by making our municipalities stronger. The Alberta Party would:
Stop Ignoring the Housing Crisis
There is an affordable housing crisis in Alberta. Across the province, particularly in our cities, finding quality affordable housing is almost an insurmountable challenge. The Alberta Party would implement an affordable housing strategy that would focus on:
- funding the construction of quality social housing, including seniors housing;
- assisting renters and homeowners by following Ontario’s lead and legalizing secondary suites throughout the province and reforming the building code to make it easier to build safe secondary suites;
- allowing municipalities to require developers to include affordable housing in their developments; and
- develop incentives to encourage the private sector to build more rental units.
Reduce congestion by investing in transit
Our cities need to make substantial investments in transit to reduce congestion and improve the environment. Both Calgary and Edmonton require significant investments to expand their light rail transit systems and smaller cities and regions, such as Banff and Cochrane, are making investments in bus based transit systems. The Alberta Party would follow the federal government’s lead and create a permanent fund dedicated to supporting transit in our cities.
Fund Family and Community Support Services
FCSS is a program funded by the Province and municipalities to provide social service programs that are tailored to the local community. Although the Province is supposed to provide 80% of the funding, the Province’s actual funding has remained frozen since 2009 and has fallen well below the 80% commitment. The Alberta Party would adhere to the 80% commitment and index increases in FCSS funding to the rate of inflation.
Provide stable and predictable funding
Municipalities rely on transfers from the Provincial and Federal governments for the majority of their capital funding. Usually this funding is through application based programs that vary dramatically from year to year, which makes it challenging for municipalities to plan their capital investments. The Alberta Party would provide municipalities with stable and predictable funding by allocating a percentage of income tax revenues to fund municipal infrastructure. We would also work with municipalities to determine other stable and predictable revenue streams, such as a hotel room tax.
Allow regionalization to fix the revenue imbalance
The Alberta Party would allow for the creation of more regional municipalities, such as Fort McMurray, so that towns and cities which provide services to the residents of the region can share in the property tax and linear assessment revenue generated in the region.
Create City Charters for Calgary and Edmonton
City Charters are needed in Calgary and Edmonton – over 70,000 people moved to our two big cities in the last year alone. However, our two biggest cities operate with the same set of rules as a summer village of 50 people.
New legislation would provide Calgary and Edmonton with much more flexibility in structuring their local governments in a manner that makes sense for a big city It would also provide the city with greater authority on matters where the city has significant expertise, such as planning, environmental remediation and housing. The Alberta Party would continue the negotiations with Alberta’s big cities to enact legislation by the end of 2016.
Modernize the Municipal Government Act
Municipalities need to be treated as an equal partner in government in our province. The Alberta Party believes that the Municipal Government Act needs to be reformed to recognize that municipalities are duly elected governments and are accountable to their citizens.
The Alberta Party has a better way.