Alberta Liberals say the NDP government’s recent City Charter announcement falls well short of their expectations for an equal partnership with a clearly defined framework for jurisdictional, financial, and electoral reform.
“Alberta Liberals were the first to propose doing away with the paternalistic relationship between the provincial and municipal governments,” says Liberal MLA David Swann. “Compared to the relationship major municipalities in other Canadian jurisdictions enjoy, this falls well short of our expectations.”
Alberta Liberals first proposed the creation of Big City Charters in 2008. That call was repeated in 2012, and reaffirmed as official Liberal policy in 2015. Over that period, successive Progressive Conservative governments failed to make substantial progress on the issue, choosing instead to make repeated piecemeal amendments to the Municipal Government Act.
Swann points out that the NDP also promised to tackle controversial interjurisdictional issues such as oil and gas drilling within municipal boundaries. Yet, there appears to be no mention of them in the proposed changes.
“Liberals view Alberta’s two major cities as equal partners, not dependents who must come cap in hand to the provincial government,” says Swann. “They shouldn’t have to beg for permission or resources to meet the needs of their citizens, but be empowered through their own unique acts which resolve these jurisdictional issues, and clearly establish revenue generating and/or sharing powers.
“At the end of the day, the most important element here is municipal funding, and there is no new funding formula or commitment to establish one in this agreement.”
“Liberals have made it clear that we believe there needs to be better democracy at the municipal level,” says Khan. “With municipal elections fast approaching, I am disappointed that the NDP government still refuses to show leadership by establishing stricter financing, lobbying and campaigning rules, ones that mirror provincial election standards.”