As indicated in previous posts, the Alberta government is currently reviewing the Municipal Government Act (MGA). Given the key role that municipalities play in the management and protection of Alberta’s environment, we have participated in this review by making written submissions. Ultimately, we would like to see the MGA amended to require and empower municipalities to manage and protect the local environment.
At the end of July, the government released its first What We Heard document summarizing public and technical consultations held from February to April of this year. This document organizes concerns raised during consultations into 54 policy issues. While several of these policy issues are relevant to environmental matters, there is little discussion of environmental concerns in the What We Heard document. The government has indicated that additional documents will be issued throughout the summer and fall summarizing the workbook and written submissions (these will be available on the MGA Review website).
According to the first What We Heard document, the next steps in the MGA review are collaboration among government ministries and targeted consultations with key stakeholders (see page 18). In mentioning the focus group process designed to engage stakeholders, the government highlights only industry as a key stakeholder. It is certainly our hope that the government will seek the input of environmental stakeholders as well.
The government indicates that legislative drafting will occur later this year. Our key recommendations for strengthening the MGA are:
- Protection and management of the environment is a valid municipal planning purpose and, as such, should be expressly recognized in the MGA.
- The MGA should incorporate by-law purposes specific to protection and management of the environment.
- The MGA should expand the enforcement tools available to municipalities for the purposes of environmental protection and management.
- The MGA should expand the revenue generation options available to municipalities to enable environmental stewardship and, particularly, land conservation.
- The MGA should enhance opportunities for public participation in municipal planning processes.
We believe that these amendments will empower municipalities to play a pivotal role in the protection and management of Alberta’s environment.