Column: Charting our own future
The following column was
published in the Calgary Herald on October 7, 2016.
You may have heard about the conversations about city charters. It may sound a bit esoteric and technical, but the creation of a city charter for Calgary is one of the most fundamental changes we can make to improve our future. Getting this right means less bureaucracy, less red tape, less buck-passing, and better services for citizens.
Over the last several years (and five premiers!), Calgary, Edmonton and the Province have worked to modernize the legislation and regulations under which we operate. Currently, Calgary, which has more people than each of five provinces, operates under the same rules and restrictions as Betula Beach, population 10.
The good news is that we all agree that we have outgrown the Municipal Government Act that guides the legislation for all of Alberta’s 344 municipalities. Our local decisions need to be made locally. Tailored legislation like the city charter will allow us to do that. The city charter is essential to ensure our long term success.
Here’s an example: Currently, something as simple as a basic municipal bylaw offense like a transit or parking ticket is managed through the provincial court system. Through the charter, The City of Calgary could create our own administrative tribunal system to manage our own municipal bylaw offenses. It just makes sense. Streamlining the ticket process like this to reduce provincial justice system costs by bringing this to a local level is innovative and efficient for everyone involved.
Another area is in better planning for new communities. Last week, I was thrilled to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District on future school sites. The charter will allow us the flexibility to ensure new schools are co-located with important community services like recreation facilities or seniors’ housing.
Examples like these can be found throughout the detailed City Charters Overview Package at Calgary.ca/citycharter. The ultimate goal is to dramatically improve how we serve our citizens, and we will do that by improving administrative efficiency; collaborating better with the Province; supporting community well-being; planning communities smartly; and empowering local environmental stewardship.
One more thing: You may have noticed an opinion piece by the Manning Centre on this page about inclusionary zoning for housing. This is a great move by the Province to provide Alberta municipalities with an important tool that has worked very well in jurisdictions across North America to provide market-based affordable housing. The opinion piece contained not just the usual cherry-picking of data, weird math, and unsubstantiated ideological conclusions, but a small factual error: the issue of inclusionary zoning is not part of the consultation on the Charter, but mostly part of the discussions around the Municipal Government Act, which applies to all towns and cities in Alberta. Regardless, it's a bold move on the part of the Province and could help a lot of people.
I’m very excited about the progress we have made, but we are not done yet. Please help us by letting us know what you think. Visit the website and join us in person at open houses on October 11 and 12.
In this moment in our history, we face many challenges. We can meet those challenges. Calgary and Edmonton need to stay diverse and economically vibrant to ensure Alberta competes in the global market and that we continue to attract investment, business, jobs and people. Not only are we charting Calgary’s future, but we are charting Alberta’s as well.