Casual Legal: ICFs: Never Too Early to Take Another Look
By Michael E. Swanberg
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider
Under Part 17.2 of the Municipal Government Act, all municipalities that share a common border are required to execute Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks (“ICFs”) unless they are already members of a growth management board. ICFs are intended to:
• Provide for the integrated and strategic planning, delivery and funding of intermunicipal services;
• Steward scarce resources efficiently in providing local services; and
• Ensure municipalities contribute funding to services that benefit their residents.
The deadline for municipalities to conclude the “first” batch of ICFs was April 1, 2021. Municipalities who were unable to meet that deadline either sought a Ministerial extension, or proceeded to arbitration on any matters not agreed to. That said, many municipalities concluded their ICFs well prior to that deadline, including some which concluded ICFs in 2020 or even 2019.
Pursuant to Ministerial Order MSD:024/23 passed on April 6, 2023, the default timeline for municipalities to review their ICFs was extended to at least every seven years, instead of every five years, unless the ICF provides for a shorter timeline (in which case the shorter timeline will apply regardless of this Ministerial Order).
While it may seem early, municipalities with ICFs should proactively review their ICFs to determine if there are any major issues that could cause conflict and should be discussed well before the first renewal period.
Some questions municipalities can consider are:
• Are there any other services not presently included in our ICF that should be included?
• Have any services currently included in our ICF changed in scope or mode of delivery?
- If so, should those services continue to be included in the ICF, or should changes be made in how they are addressed?
• Are the cost-sharing formulas functioning as intended? Do they fairly capture the amount of costs payable to the municipality providing the service?
• Are the financial disclosure processes in our ICF working as intended, or could they be streamlined or improved?
By proactively considering whether ICFs are working as intended, and discussing any issues well in advance, municipalities may prevent conflict and potential arbitration proceedings when their ICFs are officially renegotiated. While it is always valuable to have open discussions with neighbouring communities about how intermunicipal initiatives are going, Alberta Municipal Affairs has recommended holding off on initiating formal renegotiation of ICFs until the Ministry completes their review of ICF legislation in the potentially not-too-distant future.
To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or email casuallegal [at] abmunis.ca and reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please contact riskcontrol [at] abmunis.ca, or call 310-MUNI (6864) to speak to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.