Thursday, May 22, 2014

Solution 2: Changes to Provincial Legislation/Funding

Given that municipalities are creatures of the Province, there are number of things they can change to address the imbalances.

One of the most impactful changes to provincial legislation would be changes to the policing funding formula.

Policing Formula

The formula which allows Counties and MDs to receive free policing is outdated and unfair.  Back in the day, the rural municipalities in the Province used to be composed of farmland and not much else...and they didn't have a whole lot of tax revenue.  So it made sense for the Province to pay for policing services, because they just didn't have the capacity to do it themselves.

Flash forward to 2013 and the story is a whole lot different.  Many Counties and MDs in Alberta have scores of oil and gas money flowing into their coffers.  In fact, with the money the County of GP receives from only linear assessment, they could pay for two police departments the size of the City's.  Thus, I believe a new formula should be developed that takes into account a municipality's ability to pay.

A move like this would provide greater equality in who pays for municipal services in the area.

Provincial Grants

When it comes to provincial grants, the Province needs to be more equitable in how it hands them out.  My belief is that since we all pay the same provincial taxes regardless of which municipality we live in, we should receive the same benefits when the Province spends our money. 
Now I recognize that money flowing to the region does benefit everyone regardless of which municipality it goes to.  However, a great deal of that money goes to things like roads and bridges and storm water management systems which are critical to economic development.  So when one municipality receives more per capita to pay for this infrastructure, they are being given a leg up when it comes to attracting development. Having one municipality receive 40% more per person is simply unacceptable in my books.

Defining of Roles and Relationships

Right now the Province lets pretty much any municipality develop whatever they want, wherever they want (with a few stipulations...environmental and such).  What if there was a recognition that urban and rural municipalities have different functions and should be developed differently?  For example, you could say that urban centres are the primary service centres where people live and shop; rural areas are primarily for farmland, resource extraction, and country living.

Once roles are defined, there could be a number of ways the Province could organize municipalities.  For example, they could draw boundary lines around all the commercial and residential subdivisions surrounding urban centres and include them in the urban municipality.  You could then put in rules which would not allow rural municipalities to develop higher density residential areas or commercial centres.  On the flipside, you could require all heavy industrial development to be located in rural areas.  

A solution like this would require the Province to set up a system where they overrule municipal planning documents.  While this could help provide better regional planning, there would be a loss of local control.  I think this solution has some merit, but that there are probably better regional planning solutions as we shall see.

Next post-----> Solution 3: Make 'Em Pay!

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