Is Bill 28 Good for Alberta?

Bill 28 – Modernizing Regional Governance Act, was introduced in the Alberta Legislature on Monday of this week.

That’s first reading.  It was debated in the legislature on Wednesday night until the wee hours of Thursday October 31, which coincidentally is Halloween.

What does this bill propose and what really does it mean for Alberta’s municipalities?

  • Provides for the creation a series of “growth management boards” by Ministerial Order;
  • Provides for the Minister to designate a “growth region” comprised of multiple municipalities;
  • Appoint members to the “growth management boards”;
  • Determine the mandate of the “growth management board” and its powers;
  • No municipality may carry out any public works, adopt a statutory plan or enact a bylaw inconsistent with the “growth plan”;
  • Officials of municipality acting contrary to a “growth plan” may be subject to prosecution.

There is a compelling argument to look at urban planning in more of a regional context as relates to some core services such as water and sewer infrastructure, transit and transportation planning, policing, fire protection and the like.  But what does this Bill 28 do to the authorities of a duly elected municipal council? Does this truncate their traditional authority?  Will it create a more, or a less, competitive tax environment amongst municipalities? To what extent will Bill 28 have the effect of introducing another layer of bureaucracy to an already cluttered regulatory environment? To what extent will this add to the challenges of affordable housing in Alberta?  And more importantly, how will Bill 28 and its provisions make Alberta more competitive and attractive to economic and social growth?

While the Minister may have some of these powers already, that is to make regulation, now that these provisions are poised to be codified, it does shift the powers into the Minister’s court that could have the effect of trumping those of the councils that were locally elected.  It is of concern.  More significantly, Bill 28 was introduced in the absence of transparency and with no consultation with key stakeholders.  That should be of concern to every Albertan.