Municipal Affairs Minister talks economy, new act
Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson, from left, and Wetaskiwin-Camrose MLA Bruce Hinkley talk with Judy Schlosser and Shelly Andrews during the Duggan Mall market in Camrose on Nov. 9. Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian
Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson was in Camrose last week painting a rosy picture of the current state of the economic climate in Alberta.
His intentions were simple. He said he continually sees amazing things that are happening in small centres that are getting completely overlooked. He also said if we continue to focus on the negatives or perceived negatives, it does nothing to foster a fertile economy.
“A lot of this unfortunately is perception,” said the minister from the riding of Leduc-Beaumont on
Nov. 9. “When you talk about the economy is not doing well and it’s not a good time to invest in Alberta, a lot of these small towns are saying ‘Hey, we need to make sure to talk about how good it is to live here.’ We’ve got the lowest taxes in Alberta, by far, we’ve got great health care, great education, our infrastructure is good, incredibly skilled workers ... a lot of what I am hearing is to make sure we tell that story.”
His mission on his tour of Alberta municipalities is to talk to as many people as possible and see firsthand where the issues are and not just rely on reports.
One of the big things he has talked at length with to the public about is the new Municipal Government Act that was released at the end of October and how it will all work.
For Anderson, it is all about finding more efficient ways to use resources for the betterment of residents in an area. There are many projects where neighbouring municipalities can work together like in the construction of recreation facilities and the distribution of and processing of resources like water and waste water.
Both the City of Camrose and Camrose County have been preparing to negotiate the mandated intermunicipalities agreement, but they do have a long history of working together without an official policy in place. This is a common thread for many municipalities throughout the province.
“There’s some good examples out there and many of those just need to be tweaked so they are within an intermunicipal collaboration framework,” said Anderson.
Municipalities will have two years from April 1 to have agreements in place. Anderson says the government is working with Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties and the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association to help with the process. They have also put in place programs to educate people about the new agreement and are providing Alberta Community Partnership Grants to help facilitate the new agreements, “especially the smaller municipalities that need help that don’t have the capacity.”
The MGA has been in the works for five years and replaces the old act which was last updated in 1995 and took 10 years to put together. A lot has changed in how we function as a society in the last 22 years, even when it comes to the expectations of working conditions and codes of conduct for municipal councillors.
“It’s bringing it into this century and saying ‘hey these are important things,’” said Anderson. “We need to really communicate properly and we need to understand that people have rights and we need to work together to do this right.”
The act will also play a critical role in the development of new communities and ensuring they are planned with essential facilities and infrastructures like rec facilities, schools, libraries, police and fire departments in mind.
Anderson also said the act was designed with the ability to evolve over time.
“We’re not going to be looking at whole sale changes going forward, because looking at the regulations it gives us a lot of flexibility and adaptability so that when things do change we can go a whole lot more quickly on that than five years or 10 years from the previous one.”