Edmonton Mayor, Stephen Mandel, Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths and Deputy Mayor Jim Stevenson signed a memorandum of understanding formalizing their commitment to develop a big city charter to help meet the challenges of growth at the McDougall Centre in Calgary. Monday June 18 2012.
Credits: DARREN MAKOWICHUK/QMI AGENCY
Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, Calgary deputy mayor Jim Stevenson and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel on Monday signed a memorandum of agreement that will see the three parties discuss their roles and responsibilities in delivering services to Albertans.
Griffiths said the talks will start by clarifying who does what for Albertans and how to better deliver services, leaving any discussion of the financial arrangement between the two orders of government to be discussed later.
He said he ultimately would like average citizens of Alberta to "be happy with the services they get and the level of taxation," and not care about whether those services are provided by municipalities or the province.
"I'd like to have a strong conversation about what Albertans want and what they're willing to pay for with no politics involved," he said.
"I'd like to take this beyond politics to meaningful service for Albertans."
Stevenson signed the agreement on behalf of Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who took time off following the death of his father Kurban Nenshi on Sunday.
The alderman said both Calgary and Edmonton are seeing a massive influx of new citizens, triggering increased development around the cities' edges, requiring more services such as fire safety, schools, health care, library and recreation facilities among others.
"We are going to have difficulty providing services such as fire services," Stevenson said. "We need to sit down and discuss them and ... and look for ways to deal with the problems."
The talks will centre on city charter, a review of the Municipal Government Act (MGA), the municipal sustainability strategy and the impact on municipal capital funding from the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI).
Griffiths said all matters involving service delivery by the province and municipalities are on the table.
"I wouldn't want to take anything off the table because I don't think there isn't anything that we could distinguish that won't be touched by this in some shape or form, whether it's policing issues or health care," he said.
Prior to signing the agreement, talks floated that municipalities may end up conducting a referendum or plebiscite to create a new form of taxation charged by municipalities to citizens.
Mandel said he's not a big fan of holding a referendum.
"We need to come up with a solution that doesn't require that kind of direction," he said. "Our citizens have a fair amount of taxation right now and I think we should be able to find solutions without having to impact that."
Talks among the three parties will open in the fall, but it's not yet clear who will represent each order of government at the table.
Griffiths said he'd like to see a progress report to Albertans before the next municipal election in 2013.