Calgary and Edmonton Need City Charters
Posted on October 10, 2014 by Greg Clark
Municipalities provide most of the services that we use on a daily basis. Water, transit, recreation, fire protection, sewer, policing, roads, parks and don’t forget snow removal - and they do all this with an antiquated system of taxation that was devised in 1849. The reliance on property taxes to fund these essential services no longer works. The Provincial government has the power to create City Charters to give our big cities the tools they need to fund this much-needed infrastructure.
City Charters are most needed in Calgary and Edmonton - over 70,000 people moved to our two big cities in the last year alone. Yet the PC government constrains our two biggest municipalities with the same set of rules as a village of 50 people.
Earlier this week, Premier Prentice finally signed the Framework Agreement for City Charters with Mayor Nenshi of Calgary and Mayor Iveson of Edmonton. However, there are several reasons to be sceptical that this “agreement” will actually result in a new deal for Alberta’s big cities. The PC government has a track record for not following through on promises to deliver on City Charters and has accomplished almost nothing to date.
We can do better for Alberta.
The Alberta Party has been a strong advocate for strengthening Alberta’s big cities. In my view, there are three key things that must be included in a new deal for Calgary and Edmonton. As MLA for Calgary Elbow, I will fight to:
1. Create New Legislation for Calgary and Edmonton
I support the creation of City Charters for Calgary and Edmonton. Currently, Calgary and Edmonton are governed by the Municipal Government Act, the same legislation that applies to all municipalities in the Province.
New legislation would provide Calgary and Edmonton with much more flexibility in structuring their local governments in a manner that makes sense for a big City (no longer would all of City Council have to decide on whether or not you can have a secondary suite). It would also provide the city with greater authority on matters where the city has significant expertise, such as planning, environmental remediation and housing.
2. Provide Stable and Predictable Funding for Cities
I support the creation of a stable and predictable funding system for our cities. Currently, virtually all municipal infrastructure is paid for through capital grants from the Provincial and Federal governments.
The Alberta Party will reform municipal financing by ceding the education portion of the property tax to the cities and will provide other stable and predictable revenue streams. This will allow cities to build the infrastructure they need when they need it.
3. Make Strategic Investments in Transit
I am a big believer in the power of transit to improve the quality of life of Calgarians. Right now, Calgary’s LRT system runs over 100% capacity during peak periods and we have all spent time in an overcrowded buses or stuck in traffic.
The City of Calgary has developed an ambitious plan to improve transit called RouteAhead. This plan, however, will cost $13 billion over 30 years and the vast majority of it is unfunded. I believe that there needs to be a dedicated funding program that will allow Calgary to build the transit system its citizens need.
It’s time for real change.
We need to stop talking about city charters and actually create them. We need to ensure that our cities have stable and predictable sources of revenue that will allow them to build the infrastructure and deliver the services their citizens need.