18 Jun Empowering Municipalities for Environmental Management
Recommendations to Strengthen Alberta’s Municipal Government Act
In Alberta, the powers and activities of municipalities are governed by the Municipal Government Act (the MGA). The Government of Alberta is currently conducting a review of the MGA and, as part of this process, we made our written recommendations last week.
It is our view that municipalities play a key role in managing and protecting Alberta’s environment. This occurs through regulation of private land uses and through local land use planning. However, the current MGA does little to require or empower municipalities to manage and protect the local environment. We would like to see environmental management and protection of the environment as a priority in the activities of municipalities.
To this end, we have made several recommendations to strengthen the MGA. These recommendations fall into several broad categories:
1. Protection and management of the environment is a valid municipal planning purpose and, as such, should be expressly recognized in the MGA.
We recommend that definitions of environment and sustainability be incorporated into the MGA, and that environmental protection and management be expressly included as municipal purposes. It is our view that expressly granting municipalities clear legislative guidance and authority for dealing with environmental matters will enhance the provincial approach to regional land use planning under the Alberta Land Stewardship Act (ALSA).
2. The MGA should incorporate by-law purposes specific to protection and management of the environment.
We recommend that bylaw powers granted in the MGA be expanded to include environmental protection (rather than depending on less direct, general welfare provisions). It is the ELC’s view that this will provide clarity and guidance about the municipal role in environmental protection and management.
3. The MGA should expand enforcement tools available to municipalities for the purposes of environmental protection and management.
It is our view that current enforcement tools available to municipalities are insufficient for achieving environmental protection and management. We recommend improving enforcement by establishing enforcement tools similar to those available in the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA)and aligning available municipal tools with ALSA.
4. The MGA should expand revenue generation options available to municipalities to enable environmental stewardship and, particularly, land conservation.
Insufficient funding impairs the ability of municipalities – both large and small – to fulfill their roles, even where municipal powers are otherwise sufficient. We recommend that the MGA be amended to enable directed revenue for environmental initiatives.
5. The MGA should enhance opportunities for public participation in municipal planning processes.
It is our view that current opportunities for public participation in municipal planning and decision-making are too limited. Early, meaningful engagement of the public in decision-making processes leads to better decisions and, accordingly, we recommend that the MGA be amended to improve public participation opportunities.
If you’re interested in reading more, our recommendations can be viewed and downloaded here.
The Government has indicated that it will release a series of “What We Heard” documents throughout the summer to summarize all input received through consultations, workbooks and written submissions. These documents will be available on the MGA Review website.