Future of Municipal Government

Municipalities face a wide array of financial, political, social, cultural, and environmental pressures. In response, Alberta Municipalities has initiated the Future of Municipal Government (FOMG) project to explore and assess options for government structures that will enable municipalities to build thriving communities into the future. 

We have partnered with the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary on this project. The School is engaging municipal experts from Alberta and across Canada to conduct research on the following topics: 

  • The state of Alberta’s municipalities 

  • Demographic trends 

  • Municipal political, administrative, and financial viability 

  • Government options 

  • Canada’s experience 

  • Small municipalities in the prairies  

  • Citizen engagement and place making 

  • Annexation, amalgamation and regionalization in Alberta 

  • Finance  

  • Financing infrastructure 

  • Revenue and cost-sharing

While Alberta Municipalities has input on the scope of this research, the School of Public Policy has complete academic freedom over its research methodology and its findings. The purpose of this project is to seek independent, fact-based information to serve as the foundation for solutions-oriented discussions on the practices, policies, legislation, and financial arrangements that shape municipal government. 

As 2021 is an election year, we anticipate that most of the research will be released in 2022 when we can organize opportunities for municipalities, the province, and interested stakeholders to review the research findings and consider recommended changes to the policy framework in which municipalities exist. 

This webpage will be regularly updated to reflect progress and identify opportunities for stakeholders to provide input.

Learn More about the project

The project was launched in response to several factors: 

  • Alberta’s current fiscal outlook, which is creating financial challenges for all levels of government. 

  • Member interest in exploring alternative structures and financial options as expressed through correspondence, resolutions, and at events. 

  • Increasing number of municipalities who are struggling with their political,  administrative, and financial viability. 

  • Experience from other jurisdictions, where new municipal structures were imposed by provincial governments. 

Overall, Alberta Municipalities' Board strongly believes that change is inevitable, and municipalities need to have a strong role in shaping their own destiny based on solid research-informed evidence.

The project will be conducted in two phases.  

Phase 1:    

The initial deliverables are research papers on various aspects of municipal government led by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy (SPP).  

  • Each research paper will be released with a clearly written executive summary.  A variety of engagement techniques including webinars, in-person sessions, surveys, and online engagement tools will be used to share research findings and seek input from municipalities, the provincial government and stakeholders on what the implications of this research are on policy. 

Phase 2: 

The results of the research papers will inform the ultimate deliverable, which is a principle-based recommendations paper outlining options that will work for Alberta, including: 

  • An overview of options for alternative local government structures. 

  • Principles/criteria that would be used to evaluate these options.  

  • Based on these criteria, recommendations as to which options are best suited to Alberta.  

  • A review of what the recommended structures could look like at the provincial and local levels. 

Alberta Municipalities selected the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy (SPP) to be our research partner as it has a strong track record of municipal research, is well respected by the media and the Government of Alberta, and has  strong connections to municipal experts across Canada. 

The School of Public Policy is Canada’s leading policy school. The School was founded in 2008 by well-known economist Jack Mintz with a vision to drive policy discourse with relevant research, outreach and teaching. 

The School’s research is conducted to the highest standards of scholarship and objectivity. The decision to pursue research is made by a Research Committee chaired by the Research Director and made up of Area and Program Directors. All research papers are subject to blind peer-review and the final decision to publish is made by an independent Director. 

The SPP is committed to academic integrity and academic freedom.

The quality and quantity of its research lead to The School being named one of the top policy schools in the world in 2021 by Ideas/Repec (Research Papers in Economics).

Alberta Municipalities' role in this research is guided by its respect for academic freedom. The SPP has developed a research plan which it is implementing by drawing on the knowledge and experience of municipal experts from academic institutions across Canada. 

Alberta Municipalities supports the SPP’s work by:    

  • Discussing the ideal scope of specific research papers to ensure the right questions are being asked to fulfill the purpose of the project. 
  • Identifying sources of information.  
  • Reviewing drafts of papers: 
  • Review is limited to identifying any gaps and providing editorial comments to ensure the information is provided in an accessible manner. 
  • AUMA will not have any input on research findings. 

Alberta Municipalities' Board has established a Research Engagement Committee (REC) to support the project composed of: 

  • Neil Smith, CAO, NantonAlberta Municipalities Small Communities Committee   

  • Christine Beveridge, CAO, Edson – Alberta Municipalities Municipal Governance Committee  

  • Bill Given, CAO, Jasper – Member at Large  

  • Sarah Ranson, Director of Municipal Sustainability, Municipal Affairs.

The Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) was invited to join the REC, but it declined in favour of receiving updates through the Board and Administration. 

Alberta Municipalities and the SSP have agreed that the following principles will guide our work: 

Academic Independence 

The research of the SPP is independent and fact-based. 

Transparency 

Alberta Municipalities, the SPP and project partners will proactively share the project process and findings. 

Engagement:  

Municipalities, the Government of Alberta and other stakeholders will be given opportunities to provide input on the project and discuss the policy implications of its findings. 

Respect 

The project will create the space for civil dialogue on challenging issues impacting the future of municipal governance.