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MGA update may require change to city charter

The ongoing update of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) in Alberta will be impacting the Border City in the near future.

The legislation is the second-largest in Alberta, and lays the foundation for the way all municipal governments in the province function. The process to update the act has been in the works for the last four years, and a final version of the act is expected to be put together in late 2016 or in early 2017.

In recent days, the Alberta government unveiled more information about the updated act, which outlined changes to the way communities interact with developers, and changes to the way businesses are taxed, among others. The province also indicated they wanted municipalities to develop planning frameworks around regional services.

Lloydminster mayor Rob Saunders said Lloydminster already has good dialogues with its regional partners on both sides of the border.

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“We have some of those things already in place, and we’re already going down that path,” said Saunders.

He also said a larger issue to consider would be capital funding for major project work. He told 106.1 the Goat he would want to see cost-sharing between communities for regional infrastructure.

However, the way the legislation will be affecting the Border City is different than other communities, due to the unique circumstances of the city. As the community is governed by the Lloydminster City Charter, any changes required by the updated MGA may result in amendments to the charter, which in turn requires the approval of the Saskatchewan government.

The question of how this process will play out has not yet been answered. When asked about the topic, Saunders said changes to the city charter only could be considered after the final version of the MGA is approved and set in legislation.

“That would probably be a next step, that the existing charter would be updated to reflect the current legislation in the province,” said Saunders.

Jodie Sinnema, a Public Affairs Officer with Municipal Affairs, also acknowledged the changes to the MGA might result in a change to the city charter, and that the Alberta government will be working with Saskatchewan to determine what changes would need to be made. She also said discussions on the topic have not yet begun between the two governments.

“The team has to get together, and then determine how those two pieces of legislation can work together,” said Sinnema.

Lloydminster also played a role in the further development of accountability tools for the updated act. As reported by the Edmonton Sun back in October of 2015, Municipal Affairs was aware of the situation which developed in the wake of the release of a contract between the City of Lloydminster and former mayor Jeff Mulligan.

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“We are aware of the situation and under the ongoing MGA review, are examining whether additional tools to enhance municipal accountability are required,” said spokesperson Shannon Greer, at the time.

When asked about how the events in the Border City influenced the development of tools in the updated act, Sinnema said they were part of accountability issues from across the province.

“I think the events in Lloydminster were considered within a broad context when reviewing the municipal accountability issues within the MGA review process,” said Sinnema.

“Those specific events in Lloydminster were not a specific driver for any particular changes in the MGA. It was just one of very many accountability issues that were brought forward during the review process. They were all taken into context.”

Asked for his opinion on the events in the Border City making their way into the MGA update process, Saunders pointed to the changes made to the code of ethics and purchasing policy by the municipal government in the months since the special council meeting held on October 8, 2015.

“We wanted to be a leader in doing those types of things and encrypting them into our policies, and I think we can be quite proud of that,” said Saunders.

“With the scrutiny through social media, and the scrutiny of the public wanting to discuss and understand how municipalities operate, and know that there is responsible use of funds, you’ll see that evolve through encryption (into legislation).”

The act is expected to reach the Alberta legislature in late 2016.

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