New Municipal Government Act new playbook for local governments
Newly elected councils in cities, town, villages, and counties have a new playbook to use as they begin serving their community.
The Alberta Government undertook in 2014 to rewrite the Municipal Government Act. This is the legislation that sets out how local governments function and provides services to the residents of their communities. Over the three years, the government redrafted the second largest piece of legislation in Alberta.
“The last time the laws that guide municipalities were extensively updated was in 1995. At that time, fewer than one in 10 Canadians had a cell phone and the Baltimore Stallions won the Grey Cup,” said Shaye Anderson, Minister of Municipal Affairs in a press release.
“A lot has changed since then, including the needs of our communities. I am proud of the work we’ve done with local governments and stakeholders to modernize the MGA. This updated piece of legislation provides municipalities the tools and resources they need to build strong communities and make lives better for Albertans.”
Drumheller CAO Darryl Drohomerski says while there are some substantial changes, Drumheller is ahead of the curve on many of these new initiatives.
“A lot of these things aren’t any more work for us because we have been doing these things already,” said Drohomerski. “We are already leading the with many of these changes that have been proposed.
We have implemented these changes because we recognize it is good government and good transparency.”
Some of these include council having a three-year capital plans with great access for the public to see.
Already the town practices this. Another is creating a municipal sustainability plan, something the town has completed years ago.
One of the new items is completing an intermunicipal collaboration agreement. This means working with neighbouring communities on how to deliver services better with collaboration in mind.
“The idea is about getting groups talking about how there is potential to do better service sharing or other agreements,” he said. “A good example I can think of us doing that is the Drumheller and District Solid Waste Association. That is an example of a success to come from an intermunicipal collaboration agreement.”
Another change in the Act specifies councillor training, including the requirement that councillors take governance training so they are up to speed on their responsibilities. This is also something that Drumheller has long practiced. The legislation also better defines roles and responsibilities of staff.
The Act also introduces the requirement of a Code of Conduct.
“There is more emphasis on accountability and understating what being a councillor means,” said Drohomerski.
One change that may lead to more accountability is how meetings will be conducted.
Now, for example, rather than just listing an in camera session, council agendas will have to identify the topic being discussed in private.
“It is about openness, accountability, and transparency for the public. I think that is a good measure,” said Drohomerski.
Another change to open up transparency is there are defined open lines of communication between staff and elected officials. Now correspondence between staff and elected members will no longer be one on one, but the CAO will reply to the entire council.
“Everyone will have the same level of information,” said Drohomerski.
Provisions of the act will come into force in phases, with some happening immediately and others becoming effective on January, 1, 2018 and in April 2018, states a release.
Darryl Drohomerski… Drumheller CAO