Mayor & Municipal Affairs Ministers Clash Over Proposal For City Charter

Posted by Alan Zunec on Monday, February 25th, 2013 at 3:09pm.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi has issues with Doug Griffiths, the Municipal Affairs Minister. The two never did see eye to eye politically, but this past Wednesday the animosity got turned up a notch. Griffiths not only took his time during a radio show interview to note that the province isn’t seriously considering  Calgary’s negotiating brief, he called the mayor a political peacock.

Nenshi noted that the province went over the 53 page brief, denied most of it outright and left in two or three items considered negotiable. That is not a city charter or anything close. The items refused and left in were not disclosed by the mayor.

Griffiths has not been shy in touting the unwillingness of the province to grant either Edmonton or Calgary ways to increase revenue via fees or taxes. Nenshi noted that these types of measures were to be discussed in a big city charter tailored for the two largest municipalities in Alberta.

Nenshi is not the first mayor to try and gain more financial power for local government. Alberta’s provincial government keeps a tight rein on its cities, large and small. Other provinces have worked out special deals with larger metro areas, allowing them greater responsibility and freedom for their civil governments. Some lucky cities on that list include Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

Alison Redford, the current Premier, promised to make similar deals with Calgary and Edmonton. The framework for this change is due to be finished by the time the election rolls around this fall. But Griffiths isn’t totally on board, even refusing to call them city charters, but rather defining the measures as civic charters.

Municipal affairs spokesperson Cameron Traynor sees the city, or civic charter, for Edmonton and Calgary as a positive step. It would allow the two largest cities in the province to work together on important issues such as infrastructure and services. Nenshi is still optimistic that the deal will be out before the fall, perhaps as early as May. He is awaiting a meeting with the premier, but no date has been confirmed as of yet.

Nenshi and Griffiths have also clashed over a regional plan for Calgary addressing growth and the sharing of water. A mediator was called in by Griffiths to get surrounding counties to agree to the plan which will cover areas between Strathmore and Banff. Nenshi prefers the legislative approach, having the province force rural districts, which have previously refused, to adopt the plan.

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