Most of City Council attended the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) convention over the last few days.
The AUMA is an organization that represents 272 urban municipalities in the province and advocates the interests of its members to both the provincial and federal governments as well as other provincial and federal organizations.
AUMA holds a yearly convention where there are learning sessions, policy discussions, meetings with provincial officials and cabinet ministers, advocacy resolutions are passed and networking opportunities abound.
I thought I'd give a little recap of my experience this year:
I went to an informative session on Asset Management. There was an excellent presentation from the Town of Hinton, who leads Albertan municipalities in this field. In a nutshell, Asset Management is the process of analysing infrastructure to get an accurate accounting of lifespans, upgrades required, etc. While the City does do this to a certain extent now, there are a number of best practices that could be adopted to give Council and Admin a fuller picture of the health and longevity of our tangible capital assets.
The Municipal Government Act is the piece of legislation that governs almost everything that municipalities do in Alberta. The government announced last year that the MGA would be undergoing an extensive review that would culminate in an updated version going to the Legislature by Spring 2015. The City, through its involvement with AUMA, will be able to contribute to these discussions in a number of areas.
One of the sessions I went to on the review spoke about revenue streams. Some municipalities have asked for the power to diversify their revenue streams in the belief that there is an over-reliance on property taxes. The presentation examined all the possible revenue streams available and gave pros and cons on each one. I plan on doing a blog post on the topic in the future.
There was a fascinating panel discussion on different municipal governance models. Regional governments, regional planning boards, and multi-lateral partnerships were all discussed. There seemed to be a consensus in the room that much of the current system is imperfect, although there was less consensus on what the answers are.
Each year, members of AUMA debate and pass resolutions which direct AUMA's advocacy efforts. This year we talked about topics ranging from municipal funding to wetlands to amalgamations to pensions plans to the introduction of a provincial combative sports commission. The AUMA board will now take the policies that were passed and incorporate them into their advocacy efforts.
Dialogue with Ministers
There were a number of Q & A sessions with members of the provincial cabinet. While sometimes Ministers use this time to announce new policies or additional funding, there were no surprises from what I could tell. Everything seems pretty status-quo.
Every year the AUMA has a trade show which showcases everything from new street lighting systems to educational opportunities to paving equipment. It was great to see what types of products and services are out there for municipalities. I particularly enjoyed having the chance to test out some outdoor fitness equipment.
One of the great things about these conventions is the networking opportunities. I got to meet many people from around the province and was able to learn from their experiences on a number of topics.
Overall, the convention was of great value to me. I believe the AUMA provides tremendous value to Albertan municipalities and Grande Prairie is no exception. I look forward to working with them as they advance municipal objectives in the province, especially with Councillor Rice as the new President!
PS. This blog could have been a dozen pages if I expanded on everything...so if you want more details...just give me a shout!