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Alberta wants list of all municipal agreements with federal government

The people who work in the building on the left have asked the people who work in the building on the right to provide them with a full list of their dealings with the people who work in the building in the centre. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC, Christian Patry/CBC, Justin Pennell/CBC - image credit)
The people who work in the building on the left have asked the people who work in the building on the right to provide them with a full list of their dealings with the people who work in the building in the centre. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC, Christian Patry/CBC, Justin Pennell/CBC - image credit)

The Alberta government is opening up a new front in its fight with the federal government.

Last month, the minister of municipal affairs sent a letter to every city and town in Alberta.

Ric McIver asked them to provide information on all municipal-federal agreements that they have in place and to reply by Jan. 31.

CBC News asked McIver to comment on the letter, but instead the spokesperson for the municipal affairs department offered a statement.

Scott Johnston stated: "We are looking to get an understanding of the agreements between Alberta's municipalities and the federal government. Alberta's government will continue to stand up for our constitutional jurisdiction while ensuring we are working with municipalities to receive equitable funding from the federal government."

He went on to say that it's possible there may be legislation coming "which requires the federal government to engage in negotiations with our province, rather than side-stepping us by engaging only with municipalities."

Detailed list

Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek was asked to comment on the minister's request, but she declined to respond at this time.

The City of Calgary said municipalities were asked to provide information on agreements they might have with the federal government in the following areas:

  • capital funding agreements.

  • building lease agreements.

  • maintenance agreements for federal properties.

  • mutual aid agreements with First Nations.

  • funding agreements for cultural events (i.e. Canada Day events or fireworks).

  • community mailbox agreements with Canada Post.

  • agreements municipal bodies hold with the federal government (defined as any organization that receives 50 per cent or more of its funding through the municipality).

Duane Bratt, a political studies professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said the letter appears to be the latest salvo in a two-front policy battle being waged by the Smith government.

"They do not like the federal government intruding into provincial jurisdiction, whether that's natural resources or whether that is municipalities," said Bratt.

At the same time, he said the UCP government views municipalities as being creatures of the province. He also finds it interesting the letter comes at a time when the UCP holds no seats in Edmonton and a minority of those in Calgary.

"They see certain city councils, particularly those in Edmonton and Calgary, as trying to almost be counterweights to the power of the provincial government," he said.

"They [the Smith government] see them as a bit too powerful and they want to cut them down to size."

Asserting control

He pointed to the provincial government's unhappiness with Ottawa's agreements with municipalities to help fund new housing initiatives.

While the province might be able to require municipalities to keep it in the loop on funding agreements with the federal government in the future, Bratt said clamping down on Ottawa's spending power — even as it pertains to municipalities — would be trickier.

"Numerous courts over numerous years over numerous issues have repeatedly said the federal government has the ability of spending money into provincial jurisdiction. So they can't bind the federal government," said Bratt.

He also said that the province is creating red tape by asking municipalities to track down all of their agreements with the federal government.

When asked how significant a task it would be for the City of Calgary to gather this information, the city said that it is "working diligently to fulfil this broad request by the Jan. 31, 2024 deadline."