By Greg Price
Horizon School Division board of trustees is hoping there will be some educational representation at the Municipal Government Act consultations where the Notley NDP government in the act overhaul are targeting increased municipal co-operation and enhanced accountability and transparency for elected councils.
“What the act allows cities to do is develop a charter. When they have a charter, they can actually override other legislation. Normally the School Act would look at reserve land for development of schools and so on. The School Act has specific guidelines,” said Wilco Tymensen, superintendent of Horizon School Division at the board of trustees’ June 21 meeting. “The charter can override the authority of the school division. A city could come along and say ‘you are developing this parcel of land, it’d be a quarter of a city block. The school division might say that is a school of 2,000 kids and recommended land is a full city block. Normally the jurisdiction would have some voice and influence, but with the legislation, they could be totally excluded. The city could say we are going to give you way less land, I know you want a 10,000 square-metre school, you can have that, but it’ll be a three-storey building instead of a one-storey building. Even in the design of a school, the legislation can allow cities to override.”
The Municipal Government Act implies there will be co-operation between school boards and the city, but the act does not specifically say school boards are guaranteed a voice.
“There is just an assumption that we will both get along and work together,” said Tymensen. “Where before, you were guaranteed a right. This only applies to cities right now, and there are 18 of those in the Province of Alberta. The implications of those 18 municipalities is huge. The potential is once those bylaws are in place, it may funnel down to smaller municipalities as well. The danger becomes you may have a significantly reduced voice in terms of future development in schools. That is why boards are speaking quite publicly about modifications of the act.”
Government representatives will travel to 20 communities this summer seeking feedback on the changes to the Municipal Government Act, including Brooks on July 13, Medicine Hat on July 14, and Lethbridge on July 15. The government will craft new regulations to accompany key changes in the modernized MGA with input from municipalities and key stakeholders. Regulatory review and development will be ongoing until January 2017, with resulting regulations posted online for public review and feedback before they are finalized and approved. All changes to the MGA, including regulations, will be proclaimed before municipal elections in fall 2017.