No tax­ing power for Cal­gary and Ed­mon­ton in char­ters signed with prov­ince

Calgary Sun - - NEWS - JamES Wood jwood@post­media.com @JamesWoodPress

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.

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