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Brownfield Regulations

Who regulates brownfields?

In Alberta, brownfields are primarily governed by provincial regulations. The federal government has generally refrained from regulating brownfields except in relation to federally owned (Crown) land.   Municipalities have the ability to adopt bylaws related to brownfields.

Jurisdiction Legislation/Regulation
Federal Government Although federal legislation, such as the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, could apply to brownfields, the federal government has generally deferred to provincial legislation except in the case of federally owned land. The Federal Contaminated Sites Portal provides details on how the federal government approaches contaminated sites such as abandoned mines on Crown land in the North, airports, and military bases.  
Provincial Government 

The Alberta Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act governs the prevention of contamination, liability for costs, responsibility for cleanup of brownfields as well as the manner in which remediation or reclamation efforts are conducted.

Under the Act, the province has established a  Contaminated Sites Policy Framework, which sets the current path towards achieving remediation in the province. The framework integrates provisions relating to contamination set out the Public Health Act and Water Act into guidelines for remediation.

Municipal Governments

The Municipal Government Act provides municipalities with a variety of land use planning and financial tools that can be used to address brownfields. The Act is currently under review, and proposed amendments may provide additional tools to incent redevelopment. See the section below for details on how the Municipal Government Act amendments will impact brownfields.

Also, see the section Brownfield Case Studies for more details on how municipalities are managing contaminated properties and pursuing redevelopment opportunities.

More detail on how provincial regulations and municipal plans and bylaws apply to the various stages of brownfield redevelopment is available through the Green Municipal Fund’s Brownfield Roadmap for Alberta.  In addition, the  Canadian Institute of Resources Law provides a detailed analysis of federal, provincial and municipal law in Strategies for Cleaning up Contaminated Sites in Alberta.   

How will the Municipal Government Act amendments impact brownfields?

The province is reviewing the Municipal Government Act and related regulations. On May 31, 2016, it released proposed amendments in Bill 21: Modernized Municipal Government Act, some of which relate to brownfield sites.  AUMA engaged members in reviewing the proposed amendments, worked with the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) to identify consensus positions, and submitted a response on July 29, 2016.  The full response and more details on the MGA review are available here.

The following chart provides an overview of proposed amendments most relevant to brownfield redevelopment, along with AUMA and AAMDC’s joint positions.

Policy Issue

Description of Changes Proposed through New Bill



Incenting Brownfield Development (Tax Tools)

Bill 21:
PAGES 39-41

Municipal councils will be allowed to provide conditional multi-year property tax cancellations, deferrals, or reductions for multiple years to identify and promote redevelopment of brownfield properties.   

AUMA and AAMDC support the amendments that allow for tax cancellations, deferrals or reductions to incent brownfield redevelopment and are seeking a change to have the province forego collection of education taxes on these properties.  

This provision is one additional tool to incent redevelopment of brownfields.

As environmental reclamation and remediation is a provincial responsibility, the province should contribute to the costs of the lost property taxes, and reclamation and remediation processes. The province should also revisit the recommendations put forward by the Alberta Brownfields Redevelopment Working Group.

Splitting the non-residential property classes

Bill 21:
PAGES 37-38

The MGA will allow the non-residential class to be split into subclasses and taxed at different rates as defined in the regulation. These tax rates must comply with the maximum link of 5:1 (i.e. the highest non-residential rate cannot be more than 5:1 of lowest tax rate.) 

This provision will allow municipalities to split non-residential property into assessment and taxation sub-classes other than “vacant” or “improved”.

Categories for sub-classing will be done in regulation. There is currently no direction on the types of classes, or how many classes will be included.   

  AUMA and AAMDC strongly support the proposed change to allow for splitting the non-residential mill rate and are seeking the following changes:

Subclasses should be based on such considerations as type of development and cost of servicing, with the number of subclasses and types to be determined by municipalities.

Allow for some subclasses to be excluded from the 5:1 linkage (e.g., brownfields, affordable housing and vacant non-residential property).

Ensure that regulation does not inadvertently determine categories by ownership.

Subclasses should remain non-linked in the regulation (i.e. there should be no linkages between highest and lowest residential tax rates and no linkages between lowest and highest non-residential tax rates). 

AUMA and AAMDC are supportive of the splitting of the non-residential property class as it will provide an additional tool to municipalities to promote economic development and ensure that the tax rates placed on businesses are proportional to the impacts that they have on municipal infrastructure, services and planning.

The rules guiding the subdivision should be flexible and adaptable to a range of municipal needs and municipalities should be enabled to determine the number of subclasses and how the subclasses operate.