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Griffiths' backtracking on Bill 28 leaves more questions than answers

EDMONTON, AB (November 13, 2013): Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths, in his speech to the annual Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties (AAMDC) convention this morning, has backtracked on some heavy handed elements of his government’s proposed Bill 28 the Municipal Governance Act, while leaving many questions about the Bill unanswered, the Wildrose Official Opposition said today.  

The bill, introduced on October 28th, and pushed through second reading in the early morning hours of October 31st, required municipalities to join regional planning boards in circumstances where the province created them, and imposed stiff fines and jail times on municipal officials who did not cooperate with boards.  At the time the bill was debated, Griffiths insisted that (page 42), “we don’t’ have time for consultation” with municipalities and that, “sometimes… leadership isn’t always about consulting.”  However, pressure from the Wildrose Official Opposition and municipalities caused the Premier, who is facing a leadership review next week, to put the bill on hold on October 31st.   Today, while speaking in front of deeply concerned municipal elected officials, Griffiths committed to making membership in regional planning boards voluntary and to remove the provision for fines and jail times from the bill.  Although happy with the Minister’s about face on these issues, Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said Minister Griffiths still needs to answer several key questions.   “Obviously we are happy with the Minister committing to making membership in these regional planning boards voluntary,” Smith said.  “However, voluntary membership means that municipalities are free to both join and leave these regional growth boards as they see fit. We will continue to fight against forced membership of any kind.”   Wildrose Municipal Affairs Critic Bruce Rowe said he was happy to see some changes, but disappointed with the government’s backwards approach to working with our municipalities.  “This whole process once again showed this government is not interested in working with our municipalities as partners, but would rather shoot first and ask questions later,” Rowe said. “We can and we must do better moving forward, and I hope the Minister will join me in taking that approach.”