No taxing power for Calgary and Edmonton in charters signed with province
Calgary and Edmonton will gain significant new authority under long-awaited city charters but new taxation powers for alberta’s largest municipalities have been ruled out.
as the NdP government unveiled its plan for city charters in an Edmonton announcement thursday, it promised there would be talks around a new fiscal framework that will include the development of an infrastructure funding formula that will be tied to provincial revenues.
However, new taxes or powers — long a potential bone of contention — aren’t part of the new charters or the future fiscal framework negotiations, the province made clear.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi has chafed at the problems municipalities face in their reliance on property taxes but said both sides in the city charter talks decided early on that new tax powers would not be on the table because of a lack of time and public support.
Nevertheless, government will have to grapple at some point with the idea of new tax powers to ensure they can deal with their operating costs, he said.
“We’re not in a crazy crisis at the moment. the cities of Calgary and Edmonton run balanced budgets ... i’m very proud of that financial management but we’re not going to be able to kick that can to too many future generations,” Nenshi said at the government’s news conference, where he was accompanied by Edmonton’s don iveson.
But Nenshi said the commitment to a new infrastructure plan to replace the existing Msi program is a very big deal because it will ensure predictable funding for the big cities.
the NdP said there are no plans to have any discussions about tax powers but Finance Minister Joe Ceci said the infrastructure program will ensure sustainability for municipalities.
“it treats everybody like we’re all adults in the room,” said Ceci at the news conference.
While the funding will be linked to provincial revenues — cities’ construction cash will dip when alberta’s economy and revenues are down — the actual formula is to be determined.
the city charters also allow Calgary and Edmonton variation under the traffic safety act in areas such as speed limits, back-in angle parking and cycling infrastructure.
Nenshi said he will be interested to see whether the city council elected in October moves quickly to lower speed limits in residential areas, an outstanding issue for many councillors.
the charters will also allow each city’s council the ability to pass broader bylaws in areas covered under the Municipal governance act, increase maximum potential fines for serious bylaw breaches to $100,000 and set up tribunals to manage transit and parking tickets. Calgary and Edmonton will also get greater say over operation hours for licensed establishments, be allowed to offer loans for affordable housing and have increased powers over environmental stewardship.