City charters a good first step: Smith

OKOTOKS, AB (June 18, 2012): Big city charters announced today are a good first step towards greater autonomy for Edmonton and Calgary, Wildrose Official Opposition Leader Danielle Smith said today.

Smith, who is also the Wildrose Cities Critic, said she supports the idea of giving all municipalities a more prominent and clearly defined role in managing their growth and planning for their futures without interference from the province, and giving this power to Alberta’s two major cities is a good first step.

“Wildrose has consistently fought for greater recognition of municipalities as a democratic order of government,” Smith said. “I’m encouraged by today’s news and will be watching very closely to see how the details of this new arrangement unfolds.”

Smith, however, expressed some doubt about the province’s commitment to municipal autonomy.

“It remains to be seen if this government is serious about changing the heavy-handed way they deal with cities and municipalities,” Smith said. “I’m more than a bit skeptical that a government that has consistently relied on bullying and intimidation tactics to get municipalities to fall in line has suddenly seen the light.”

Smith also expressed the expectation that city charters will not open the door to additional taxes. She said the province takes in enough revenue to share adequate funding with cities without the need for either level of government to resort to new taxes.

The Wildrose 10/10 plan calls for a single infrastructure transfer to municipalities called the Community Infrastructure Transfer. It would send 10% of provincial tax revenues and 10% of budget surpluses directly to municipalities with no strings attached.

“Albertans are taxed enough,” Smith said. “We will be watching to make sure these charters do not result in higher taxes for Alberta families and seniors.”

Smith also said Wildrose will monitor progress on the city charters to make sure Alberta’s other municipalities aren’t adversely affected.