FDA’s Proposed Five Amendments to the Alberta Municipal Government Act (MGA)

mgaThe Foundation for Democratic Advancement (FDA) submitted these five amendments to the Alberta MGA Review on May 15, 2014.

If you have any comments or questions about these proposed MGA amendments, please contact the FDA at info@democracychange.org

PROPOSED AMENDMENT #1

Section 231(1) [Governance and Administration/Municipal Purposes and Structures]

Section 231(1)
Petition for vote on advertised bylaws and resolutions 231(1) Except for a bylaw under section 22 or a bylaw or resolution under Part 17 [planning and development], after a proposed bylaw or resolution that is required to be advertised under this or another enactment has been advertised, the electors may submit a petition for a vote of the
electors to determine whether the proposed bylaw or resolution should be passed.

Issue:

Section 231(1) unreasonably denies residents of municipalities a direct and substantive say over a bylaw or resolution pertaining to planning and development.

The FDA holds the democratic view that Alberta people ought to have sovereign authority over political affairs, and that elected officials are subordinate to the people. They are servants of the people (or in service of the people), and thereby accountable to the people.

Proposed Amendment of Section 231(1):

Petition for vote on advertised bylaws and resolutions 231(1) Except for a bylaw under section 22, after a proposed bylaw or resolution that is required to be advertised under this or another enactment has been advertised, the electors may submit a petition for a vote of the electors to determine whether the proposed bylaw or resolution should be passed. [Deleted Part 17]

231(2) For Part 17 [planning and development] decisions, the residents of a municipality must attain at least 20% support of the electorate population in order to initiate a public vote on a planning and development bylaw or resolution. The petition must be complete no more than 3 months from filing the paperwork to initiate a petition. [Addition]

231(2)(a) A successful public vote on a planning and development bylaw or resolution must attain at least 50% plus 1 votes in support and attain at least a 50% quorum of the entire electorate population of a municipality including all wards or divisions. [Addition]

[Note, the FDA believes that the 20% petition threshold is reasonable for planning and development decisions because of the low voter turnout in the Alberta municipal elections. In addition, the 20% petition threshold can be lowered and raised if there are sound reasons to do so.]

Outcome:

This amendment will give residents of municipalities an opportunity to have final say over planning and development bylaws and resolutions.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT #2

Section 232(1) [Governance and Administration/Municipal Purposes and Structure]

Section 232(1)
Petition for bylaw
Section 232(1) Electors may petition for
(a) a new bylaw, or
(b) a bylaw to amend or repeal a bylaw or resolution on any matter within the jurisdiction of the council under this or another enactment.

(2) A petition requesting a new bylaw under Part 8, 9, 10 or 17 [planning and development] or an amendment or repeal of a bylaw or resolution made under Part 8, 9, 10 or 17 has no effect.

Issue:

Section 232(1) unreasonably denies residents of municipalities a direct and substantive say over a new bylaw, bylaw to amend, or repeal a bylaw or resolution that pertains to planning and development (Part 17 in MGA).

The FDA holds the democratic view that Alberta people ought to have sovereign authority over political affairs, and that elected officials are subordinate to the people. They are servants of the people (or in service of the people), and thereby accountable to the people.

Proposed Amendment of Section 232(1):

Petition for bylaw
Section 232(1) Electors may petition for
(a) a new bylaw, or
(b) a bylaw to amend or repeal a bylaw or resolution on any matter within the jurisdiction of the council under this or another enactment.

(2) A petition requesting a new bylaw under Part 8, 9 or 10 or an amendment or repeal of a bylaw or resolution made under Part 8, 9, or 10 has no effect. [Deleted Part 17]

(3) For Part 17 [planning and development] decisions, the residents of a municipality must attain at least 20% support of the entire electorate population of the municipality, including all wards or divisions, in order to initiate a public vote on a new bylaw or amendment or repeal of a bylaw or resolution pertaining to Part 17. The petition must be complete no more than 3 months from filing the paperwork to initiate a petition. [Addition]

231(1)(b) A successful public vote on a Part 17 [planning and development] new bylaw or amendment or repeal of a bylaw or resolution must attain at least 50% plus 1 votes in support of the entire electorate of the municipality and attain at least a 50% quorum of the entire electorate population of the municipality. [Addition]

[Note, the FDA believes that the 20% petition threshold is reasonable for planning and development decisions because of the low voter turnout in the Alberta municipal elections. In addition, the 20% petition threshold can be lowered and raised if there are sound reasons to do so.]

Outcome:

This amendment will give residents of municipalities an opportunity to have final say over new bylaws or bylaws to amend or repeal a bylaw or resolution that pertains to planning and development.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT #3

Section 572(1) [Municipal Accountability/Relationships With Others]

Inquiry
572(1)The Minister may order an inquiry described in subsection
(2) if the Minister receives
(a) a sufficient petition requesting the inquiry that is signed,
(i) in the case of a municipality other than a summer village, by electors of the municipality equal in number to at least 20% of the population, and
(ii) in the case of a summer village, by at least 20% of the electors of the summer village,
or
(b) a request for the inquiry from a council.

Issue:

Section 572(1) denies residents of municipalities, even after attaining at least 20% support of the electorate, a direct and substantive say over whether or not municipal inquiries will be conducted. Instead the Minister of Municipal Affairs has the final authority as to whether or not to conduct an inquiry into a matter connected to a municipality.

The FDA holds the democratic view that Alberta people ought to have sovereign authority over political affairs, and that elected officials are subordinate to the people. They are servants of the people (or in service of the people), and thereby accountable to the people.

Proposed Amendment of Section 572(1):

Inquiry
572(1)The Minister must order an independent inquiry described in subsection [Addition]
(2) if the Minister receives
(a) a sufficient petition requesting the inquiry that is signed,
(i) in the case of a municipality other than a summer village, by electors of the municipality equal in number to at least 20% of the population, and
(ii) in the case of a summer village, by at least 20% of the electors of the summer village,
or
(b) a request for the inquiry from a council.
(3) the petition must be complete no more than 3 months from filing the paperwork to initiate a petition. [Addition]

[Note, the FDA believes that the 20% petition threshold is reasonable in consideration of the lower turnout in Alberta municipal elections. In addition, the 20% petition threshold can be lowered and raised if there are sound reasons to do so.]

Outcome:

This amendment will help ensure an independent municipal inquiry if residents of a municipality attain at least 20% support of the entire electorate of the municipality including all wards or divisions.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT #4

Section 182 [Municipal Purposes and Structures]

Section 182
A councillor has one vote each time a vote is held at a council meeting at which the councillor is present.

Issue:

Section 182 unnecessarily restricts the freedom of Alberta municipalities to determine their own structures and procedures such as weighted voting systems.

The FDA holds the democratic view that Alberta municipalities and the residents ought to have authority over their political affairs wherever possible, and the Alberta people ought to have sovereign authority over political affairs.

Proposed Amendment of Section 182:

182 Municipalities have the authority to determine their own structures and procedures subject to attaining a double majority of the Municipal Council and electorate. Both 50% plus 1 of the Council and 50% plus 1 of the entire electorate population must support any proposed structures and procedures for the municipality. [Addition]

182(1) Change in municipal structures and procedures may be initiated through either vote of the Municipal Council with 50% plus 1 in favour of change in structures and procedures or a citizen-initiated petition with at least 20% support of the entire electorate population of the municipality. The petition must be complete no more than 3 months from filing the paperwork to initiate a petition. [Addition]

182(2) Change in municipal structures and procedures is under the full and binding authority of the Municipal Council and electorate subject to the meeting the conditions of section 182 and 182(1). [Addition]

Outcome:

This amendment will give municipal Councils and the electorate authority over the municipal structures and processes, and thereby the freedom to determine how they want to run their affairs.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT #5

There are no provisions in the Municipal Government Act for citizen-initiated recall of elected officials. [Municipal Accountability]

Issue:

Elected officials have four-year terms as of the October 2013 Alberta municipal elections (under the Local Authorities Election Act). So under the current MGA, residents of municipalities have to wait until the end of the terms to directly replace councillors. However, due to issues with a councillor such as conduct in relation to the electorate or lack of confidence, residents may want he or she replaced before the end of the four-year term. Alberta residents are denied this fundamental democratic right to remove their representatives within reasonable time. In addition, Alberta residents are denied an important mechanism to hold elected officials accountable.

The FDA holds the democratic view that the Alberta people ought to have sovereign authority over political affairs, and that elected officials are subordinate to the people. They are servants of the people (or in service of the people), and thereby accountable to the people.

Proposed Amendment to the MGA

The FDA proposes the inclusion of citizen-initiated recall within the following sections:

Citizen-initiated Recall
[Addition]

(New) Part 7, section 240(3) Residents of a municipality have the authority and right to recall municipal elected officials subject to meeting certain conditions.

240(3)(a) Recall of an elected official cannot be initiated until 6 months have lapsed following the elected official’s election.

240(3)(b) A recall petition with signatures of at least 20% of the electorate population corresponding to the division, ward or otherwise of the elected official must be satisfied to initiate a recall vote. The petition must be complete no more than 3 months from filing the paperwork to initiate a petition.

240(3)(c) If the petition satisfies the requirement of at least 20% support of the electorate population and 3 month rule, a recall vote will be held within 1 month after satisfying the conditions for the petition in the division, ward or otherwise of the elected official.

240(3)(d) The recall vote requires at least 50% plus 1 of the electorate from corresponding ward or division in favour of recall of the elected official, and a vote quorum of at least 50% plus 1 of the electorate population of the ward or division.

240(3)(e) If an elected official is recalled, he or she would have no restrictions on running in the reelection of his or her elected position or any other election.

240(3)(f) There are no limits on the number of times an elected official can be recalled.

[Note, the FDA believes that recall should be encouraged over discouraging it, and the FDA believes this encouragement is served by the required 20% support from the electorate population to initiate a recall vote. In setting this threshold, the FDA considered the low voter turnout in Alberta municipal elections and petition thresholds in the current Municipal Government Act. In addition, the 20% petition threshold can be lowered and raised if there are sound reasons to do so.]

Outcome:

This amendment will give residents of a municipality more say over who are their elected representatives and the power to remove elected officials without having to wait for the next election period. Consequently, this amendment will empower the electorate and create more public accountability of elected officials.

Created 2014-04-02; Updated 2014-05-15 Submitted to the Alberta MGA Review 2014-05-15