Update from the Legislature – November 16, 2022
Premier Smith released three batches of ministerial mandate letters on November 9, 10 and 15. The first batch focused on affordability, the second focused on “standing up for Albertans”, and the third on "growing the Alberta Advantage". The mandate letters established a high-level focus for all ministers centred on four provincial government priorities:
- Keep the inflation and affordability crisis 'top of mind'
- Have a laser focus on job creation and strengthening Alberta’s economy
- Ensure all areas of the province receive prompt and efficient ambulance service… also act quickly to bring substantive improvements to emergency room services and clear surgical backlogs
- Proactively protect Albertans from continued federal government overreach.
Here are the highlights from the Minister of Municipal Affairs' mandate letter:
- Strengthen and maintain a relationship of mutual respect and cooperation with municipal leaders to serve Albertans more cooperatively.
- Continue to consult with stakeholders and improve the delivery of stable, predicable funding through the Local Government Fiscal Framework.
- Work with the Ministers of Education and Treasury Board and Finance to review the feasibility of changes to the Education Property Tax to assist municipalities with retaining more funding for local priorities.
- Review the structure and effectiveness of the Calgary and Edmonton Metropolitan Region Boards to ensure they are effectively serving their residents.
- Work with the Minister of Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction, who is the lead, to work with municipalities to benchmark, measure and reduce the time it takes to approve permits in order to create a more attractive business investment environment.
- Work with the Minister of Seniors, Community and Social Services, who is the lead and engage with large and mid-sized cities to ensure the province is paying its appropriate share to address issues of homelessness, and mental health and addiction services.
Specific items assigned to other ministers that may be of interest to municipalities include:
Culture: Work with the Minister of Technology and Innovation and Jobs, Economy and Northern Development to continue growing Alberta’s cultural industries during the next decade, including focusing on Alberta-made (film and television) productions and supporting Alberta producers and companies in developing Alberta content.
Education: Work with the Minister of Infrastructure develop a proposal to significantly increase the number of schools in our growing communities.
Justice: As the lead, work with the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services to finalize a decision on establishing an Alberta Police Service (APS).
Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness:
- Position Alberta as a role model for safe and secure communities across the country and North America.
- Make mental health and addictions recovery a central component to effective community policing and corrections.
- Work with the Minister of Justice, as the lead, and Municipal Affairs to launch an Alberta Police Service (APS).
- Work with Indigenous, mid-sized, and rural communities to find solutions to address rising crime rates in these areas.
- As the lead, work with the Minister of Municipal Affairs to begin to establish a regional approach to policing in Alberta which includes work with municipalities and local law enforcement agencies to ensure a sharing of services, data and communications is in place to lead to improved outcomes for both released offenders and the public.
Seniors, Community and Social Services: Continue to implement Stronger Foundations: Alberta's 10-year strategy to address affordable housing across the province.
Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction:
- Diagnose slow turnaround times in Land Titles. Bring forward both short-term and long-term solutions that will bring both efficiency and faster approvals that allow us to work through and eventually eliminate the backlog.
- Monitor and accelerate the implementation of Prompt Payment legislation to address the problems in the Alberta construction industry related to timeliness of payments from contractors to sub-contractors. Furthermore, develop an adjudication process to handle disputes and develop improvements for recourse in the event of a claim for non-payment.
- Refocus red tape reduction efforts to measure, benchmark and reduce wait times for permit approvals across all ministries. Report on the feasibility of adopting an “automatic yes” policy that would assume a permit is approved within a reasonable and specific amount of time after an application, unless the department in question delivers a written rationale on why it should be rejected.
- Support Municipal Affairs with the ongoing building codes review to ensure both safety and affordability concerns are appropriately addressed and ensure authority for building code changes remain provincial jurisdiction.
Technology and Innovation: Work on the ongoing implementation of the Alberta Broadband Strategy, to ensure that every Albertan has access to reliable, high-speed internet by 2026-27.
Trade, Immigration and Multiculturalism: Work with the federal government to significantly expand the number of immigrants accepted under the Provincial Nominee Program and develop new pathways for Alberta companies to directly recruit workers with key skills in technology, agriculture, construction, healthcare and other areas of shortage.
Transportation and Economic Corridors: Work with Infrastructure to propose a formula to provide guidance on the amount of capital funding that should be budgeted each year to ensure greater predictability for our construction industry partners.
Treasury Board and Finance:
- Prepare Budget 2023-24 to ensure budget priorities for the coming fiscal year strike the right balance between ensuring increases to operational spending are kept at or below inflation plus population growth (using the prior year’s actual data), and ensuring that an appropriate amount of the projected surplus is dedicated to debt reduction, savings, infrastructure and the affordability pressures Albertans are struggling with
- Work with Cabinet and caucus to develop a new fiscal framework and surplus strategy that balances sustainable debt reduction, savings and infrastructure investment while addressing inflationary and other affordability pressures.
- Ensure that a budget bucket for in-year spending is dedicated to the priority projects identified by the Minister of Transportation and Economic Corridors and Minister of Infrastructure.