AUMA had an exclusive conversation with the Honourable Kaycee Madu, Minister of Municipal Affairs. The Minister spoke to the priorities in his portfolio and highlighted his commitment to municipalities.
AUMA: As local governments work with their neighbouring municipalities to enter into Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks, how do you plan to help municipalities complete these challenging but important negotiations before next year’s deadline?
Mr. Kaycee Madu: Alberta is large and regionally diverse, and our communities are stronger when they can share scarce resources. As such, our government supports Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks, and will support municipalities in the development of these agreements and sub-agreements. Municipal Affairs has worked with the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta to develop an extensive toolkit to assist municipalities in developing their frameworks, and also hosted a series of regional sessions in 2018 to walk through the toolkit with municipalities and to help start discussions at the local level. In addition, the ministry has provided significant funding to municipalities through the Alberta Community Partnership program in support of framework negotiations. To date, over 220 municipalities have received Alberta Community Partnership grants in support of 129 Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks and 114 Intermunicipal Development Plans. The ministry has also provided exemptions or extensions for a number of municipalities who meet criteria set out in a ministerial order to help reduce the overall pressure on municipalities.
AUMA: What is your vision for a partnership between the province and municipalities to fund and care for the essential infrastructure that Albertans rely on in each community?
Mr. Kayce Madu: Our government recognizes that municipalities urgently need a predictable, long-term solution for infrastructure funding. Outside the two big cities, the NDP did nothing to address this issue over the past four years. Our government is changing that. We’re committed to maintaining infrastructure dollars promised to municipalities and ensuring they have predictable, long-term funding. We’re currently speaking to local leaders and groups like the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta about how to deliver this, and look forward to finding the right solutions.
AUMA: What do you see as the greatest challenge facing municipalities and what opportunities do you see for your government, AUMA and our members to work together in overcoming these challenges?
Mr. Kaycee Madu: Many municipalities have suffered greatly over the past four years. They’ve seen investment flee, businesses shutter and families pack up and leave in search of greener pastures elsewhere. Bringing investment back to our municipalities is arguably the most challenging and pressing issue on this file, which is why our government immediately took action to incent investment by introducing Bill 7, which would empower municipalities to offer tax cancellations, deferrals or reductions to attract job creators. With this legislation, Alberta municipalities – which are some of the best places in the world to live, work and raise a family – would be able to compete for investment with any jurisdiction in North America.
AUMA: What has surprised you most about your portfolio since being appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs?
Mr. Kayce Madu: I was surprised to see how drastically the policies of the past four years – and the red tape that has piled up even longer than that – has hurt our small and mid-size municipalities. Some of this is provincial burdens on municipalities, and some is from both levels of government on businesses and homeowners. We must do better at both levels of government to turn this around. Many of the municipalities I’ve talked to so far have seen their tax bases erode by a sizable margin, due directly to the NDP carbon tax, over-regulation, administrative bottlenecks and red tape. All across the province, you see the effects. Downtown Calgary still has a staggering commercial vacancy rate. Northern Alberta has seen daunting levels of investment flight. Many of our communities are full of beautiful, brand new business parks with one or two tenants. Our government is tackling this issue head-on. We’re cutting taxes, eliminating red tape and empowering municipalities to bring investment back to their communities, but we need the help of our municipal partners to succeed overall.