Inclusion of Libraries in Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks

Subject Governance
Year 2023
Status Adopted - Active
Sponsor - Mover
Cardston, Town of
Sponsor - Seconder
Magrath, Town of
Active Clauses

IT IS THEREFORE RESOLVED THAT Alberta Municipalities advocate for the clear articulation by the Government of Alberta in legislation that cost sharing for library services is within the scope of Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks. 

Whereas Clauses

WHEREAS the purpose of Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks (ICFs) is to ensure municipalities contribute funding to services that benefit their residents (MGA s. 708.27 (c));

WHEREAS most libraries serve residents of more than one municipality and the financial sustainability of libraries is of great importance to all Alberta municipalities;

WHEREAS Library Boards are created by municipalities by bylaws, and many are primarily funded by a municipality, including many municipalities having responsibility for staffing and facility maintenance and replacement;

WHEREAS Library Boards are charged in the Libraries Act with the responsibility for funding, but have no effective leverage to secure funding for the provision of their services with neighbouring municipalities except within the ICF negotiation framework; and 

WHEREAS many ICFs currently contain funding provisions for library services within many of the negotiated ICF agreements, which is of common knowledge to Municipal Affairs.

Resolution Background

ICFs are intended to require municipalities to create comprehensive frameworks between them which address all intermunicipal services that benefit the residents of both municipalities. This ensures that municipalities which benefit from services offered in neighbouring municipalities will equitably share in the costs associated with delivering those services. Limiting “intermunicipal services” to only those services that are directly administered by municipalities is contrary to the Legislature’s intent. With respect to library services, while it is true that Library Boards are separate legal entities, the fact remains that they are created and funded by municipalities, and most importantly are largely dependent on funding from municipalities to sustain their operations. Since ICFs are required to include provisions addressing the proportionate funding of intermunicipal services, it is an unreasonable for the Minister of Municipal Affairs to exclude any consideration of intermunicipal services that are funded by municipalities. 

Part 17.2 of the Municipal Government Act (MGA) creates a flexible framework intended to allow municipalities to, either by agreement or through arbitration, craft comprehensive ICFs which address all shared services which benefit residents of both municipalities. A broad and purposive interpretation of Part 17.2 of the MGA would include all intermunicipal services within the ambit of ICFs, regardless of whether the intermunicipal service is delivered directly by a municipality, or if it is principally funded by municipalities but delivered by a third party.

Section 708.27 of the MGA confirms that ICFs are intended:
a. To provide for the integrated and strategic planning, delivery and funding of intermunicipal services,
b. To steward scarce resources efficiently in providing local services, and
c. To ensure municipalities contribute funding to services that benefit their residents.”

Section 708.29 sets broad parameters for what must be included in an ICF:

(1) A framework must describe the services to be provided under it that benefit residents in more than one of the municipalities that are parties to the framework.
(2) In developing the content of the framework required by subsection (1), the municipalities must identify which municipality is responsible for providing which services and outline how the services will be delivered and funded.
(3) Nothing in this Part prevents a framework from enabling an intermunicipal service to be provided in only part of a municipality.
(3.1) Every framework must contain provisions establishing a process for resolving disputes that occur while the framework is in effect, other than during a review under section 708.32, with respect to
(a) the interpretation, implementation or application of the framework, and
(b) any contravention or alleged contravention of the framework.
(4) No framework may contain a provision that conflicts or is inconsistent with a growth plan established under Part 17.1 or with an ALSA regional plan.
(5) The existence of a framework relating to a service constitutes agreement among the municipalities that are parties to the framework for the purposes of section 54.”

Read together, sections 708.27 and 708.29 give municipalities significant flexibility in crafting an ICF that covers all intermunicipal services between them, provided those services are municipally funded and benefit residents of both municipalities.

The direction in section 708.29(1) is that the ICF “must describe the services to be provided under it that benefit residents in more than one of the municipalities that are parties to the framework.” There is no reference to excluding intermunicipal services that are municipally funded but are operated by third parties. All that is required is that the intermunicipal service be funded by the municipalities, and benefit residents in both municipalities, for it to be addressed in the ICF.

Further, there is no indication that the reference to “delivery” of services was intended to exclude intermunicipal services delivered by third parties. The broad and unqualified language in section 708.27 suggests that municipalities can have flexibility in determining how services are planned, funded and delivered, and there is no indication in the legislation that ICFs are intended to include only certain modes of service delivery and not others. The key consideration is whether the service is municipally funded and benefits residents in multiple municipalities (thereby addressing the third objective to require municipalities to contribute equitably to services that benefit their residents).

The Libraries Act
The Libraries Act sets out the relationship between Library Boards and municipal Councils. Section 3 states that it is the discretion and responsibility of the local municipal Council to establish a library board. 

Municipal board 
(1)The council of a municipality may, by bylaw, establish a municipal library board.”

The Libraries Act continues to expound upon the financial relationship between the Library Board and the municipality. It is obvious from section 8 that the local municipal Council continues to have great influence and discretion over the financial position of the local Library Board. 

(1) The municipal board shall before December 1 in each year prepare a budget and an estimate of the money required during the ensuing fiscal year to operate and manage the municipal library.
(2)    The budget and the estimate of money shall be forthwith submitted to the council of the municipality.
(3)    Council may approve the estimate under subsection (1) in whole or in part.”

The province also supplies a great deal of data to show the reliance of Library Boards on the local municipal authority. On the Government of Alberta web site, the following financial information is shared;

In 2018:
Provincial operating grants to public library boards (municipal and system) totaled $30,132,755, representing 13% of total library operating revenue.

The province also expended $4,841,109 to support the provincial library network. This included funds for SuperNet connectivity for all public libraries, electronic resources and the resource sharing network. Total provincial support for public library service amounted to $34,973,864.

Municipal contributions (including in-kind support) to public library boards (municipal and system) totaled $173,295,301. This represented 73% of total library operating revenue.” (

This confirms that the local municipality is the key stakeholder in library funding, and by extension should be permitted to negotiate library funding as part of the ICF process. 

The successful future of libraries in Alberta is highly dependent on the ability of local municipalities to fund them properly, thereby maintaining or increasing library relevance in the community. The fact that Municipal Affairs prohibits the negotiation of library funding in the ICF context complicates the ability of the local municipality or the local Library Board to secure long term, reliable funding to serve the members of all benefitted communities. 

The Town of Cardston respectfully requests the support of Alberta Municipalities membership in petitioning the Government of Alberta to reconsider their current position on cost-sharing within ICF agreements, and to include this service firmly within the scope of future negotiations of ICFs.