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Bill 21 was introduced on April 25, 2022 and if passed will amend thirteen different statutes, including the Municipal Government Act (“MGA”). This article provides a brief overview of the changes to the MGA proposed by Bill 21.
Fostering economic development
The list of municipal purposes would include “to foster the economic development of the municipality”.
Intermunicipal business license (“IBL”)
Two or more municipalities could establish an IBL program by adopting a bylaw of each participating municipality. The Minister would also be able to make regulations respecting IBL programs.
Public hearing for road closures
Before second reading of a bylaw that would close a road, council would have to hold a public hearing for the proposed bylaw. This is in place of the current requirements to advertise the bylaw and for council to hear from an affected person.
Procedural changes re: formation, change of status, dissolution, amalgamation and annexation
The amendments would make various changes to the procedure for the formation, change of status or dissolution of a municipality, the amalgamation of municipal authorities, or the annexation of land, including:
- update the public input requirements for formation, change in statute, and amalgamation;
- repeal the area and population requirements to form a municipal district, village, town, and city;
- remove the option to initiate a formation by a petition;
- remove considerations of viability and common boundaries before recommending a formation;
- eliminate the regulations for initiating an amalgamation and allow municipal authorities to initiate in a manner satisfactory to the Minister;
- require that the same procedure that occurs after an objection to an annexation be followed when the Land and Property Rights Tribunal is not satisfied that there is general agreement;
- mandate the Minister to recommend dissolution if electors vote for dissolution and allow the Minister to make an order to direct council or the chief administrative office to take certain actions if the electors vote against the dissolution;
- require a vote of electors regarding dissolution be conducted in accordance with the Local Authorities Election Act
Minister’s power to enforce ministerial orders from viability review
The Minister currently has the ability to dismiss council or any member of council or the chief administrative officer of a municipality where an order of the Minister resulting from a viability review is not being carried out. The Minister would have the following additional powers:
- suspend bylaw-making authority of council, exercise bylaw-making authority, and remove a suspension with or without conditions;
- withhold money otherwise payable by the Alberta Government to the municipality;
- establish, repeal or amend policies and procedures respecting the municipality;
- suspend the development or subdivision authority and provide a person to act in its place;
- require or prohibit any other action as necessary to ensure compliance; and
- hold an additional electors’ vote on whether the municipality should or should not be dissolved.
Chief elected official is not an automatic member of committees and bodies
The amendments would remove the requirement that the chief elected official is a member of all council committees and all bodies to which council has the right to appoint members unless council provides otherwise.
Notice methods for meetings
The amendments would allow council to approve of the method(s) to give notice for a council or council committee meeting, and notice to a councillor, member of council committee and the public would be deemed sufficient if given by an approved method.
Holding meetings by electronic means
Further allowances and requirements would be added for holding meetings, including hearings, by electronic means. The amendments would:
- permit council to pass a bylaw to provide for meetings to be held by electronic means;
- the bylaw must: specify the type of electronic means for the meeting, require a method to confirm the identity of each councillor, specify a method for the public to access, specify a method for making information publicly available, and specify a method for giving public notice of the meeting; and
- allow the Minister to make regulations respecting the use of electronic means to conduct meetings.
Assessment & taxation rules for non-residential property
Specific rules relating to the assessment and taxation of non-residential property would move from the Matters Relating to Assessment Sub-Classes Regulation directly into the MGA. This includes provisions regarding the division of non-residential property into sub-classes and the tax rates for non-residential property.
Minister to approve Community Revitalization Levy (“CRL”) bylaws and amendments
CRL bylaws and amendments are currently approved by the Lieutenant Governor. The proposed amendments would transfer this power to the Minister. The Minister could approve the bylaw in whole or in part or with variations and subject to conditions.
Municipalities will want to watch out for more information and updates on these proposed changes. If your municipality has questions on the impact of Bill 21 please reach out to one of the lawyers on our municipal team.