May 21st, 2024

Municipal Affairs Bill presents ‘more questions than answers’ says Hyggen


By Lethbridge Herald on April 26, 2024.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen talks to reporters about the introduction of Bill 20 Municipal Affairs Statues Amendment Act, on Friday afternoon at City Hall. Herald photo by Alejandra Pulido-Guzman

Alejandra Pulido-Guzman – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – apulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Mayor Blaine Hyggen says the City of Lethbridge will need time to evaluate the potential impact of the newly introduced Bill 20, the Municipal Affairs Statues Amendment Act, 2024. 

The proposed bill makes changes to the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA), which establishes the framework for the conduct of elections in Alberta municipalities, and the Municipal Government Act (MGA), which establishes the rules governing the conduct of local elected officials once on council, as well as the overall administration and operation of municipal authorities in the province. 

During a media availability Friday, Hyggen said there was “a lot to unpack” when it came to the bill and they need time to “dive deep into it.” 

“There’s been a lot of conversations since yesterday regarding this bill,” said Hyggen. “It’s a surprise to many of us. I spent last night until about 2 a.m. going through it and there are many pages and many changes.” 

Hyggen said the city trying to understand the information, the possible implications and costs that might come with it. 

“Mid-city mayors – there’s 26 of us that are mayors of cities of 15,000 or more – we’ve been in contact as well, so there may be a statement coming from mid-city mayors that’s being worked on right now as well.” 

He said there are a lot of questions and a lot of frustration being expressed, and they need to learn more about the bill. 

“It is first reading and that puts it on the table. However, when second reading comes we’re hoping that there’s a lot of conversation prior to passing of a second or third reading.” 

Hyggen’s initial reaction when he saw the bill was one of surprise when he realized the amount of changes being presented. Based on conversations with Alberta Municipalities and other mid-city mayors, he knew there was going to be some changes, but was not expecting so many. 

“I’m sure I burnt out a couple highlighters already here till 2 a.m. trying to figure out what some of those changes are,” he Hyggen. 

When asked about one of his concerns with the bill, Hyggen said he was worried about the cost that some of the changes might bring to the municipalities and how that will be addressed. 

“We do a four-year budget, so we haven’t budgeted for this. We don’t know what this cost is going to be in 2025 when the municipal elections are in. It could be $200,000 or $300,000 or $400,000.” 

He gave the example of electronic tabulators, which the bill is proposes to eliminate, and the possible cost that municipalities could acquire by going back to hand counting. 

“What’s that going to look like? What’s the timeline for that? I can only imagine how long that would be. You hear about concerns around the world of having these tabulators, so I’m really interested in getting a better understanding on why some of these different comments and some of the changes are in there.” 

When asked about some of his concerns in regards to specific city initiatives like the Land Use Bylaw, Hyggen said municipalities are better equipped to deal with their own bylaws, as they know what is best for their citizens. 

“A land use bylaw should be municipal jurisdiction. It’s about staying in our lane. I would hope that the province sees that, as well. People that live here should have that input into a land use bylaw, tougher to have it from a provincial level if those folks are not part of the community.” 

When introducing Bill 20 during a press conference Thursday, Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver said Albertans expect fair and free elections, and through this legislation they are ensuring locally elected officials of councils are accountable. 

He said that if passed, the bill will enable local political parties to participate in local elections including being identified next to the candidates name on a local election ballot.

“Our decision is focused on transparency,” said McIver. “I’ve said this many times through speeches to Alberta municipalities and the rural municipalities of Alberta, as well as in numerous individual conversations with local officials and municipal councils. Party official affiliation at the local level is something that happens already, particularly in the bigger cities.” 

Hyggen said even though he has not gone through all the information yet, he has heard from residents on how they do not want to have political parties at a local level. 

“I’ll be very honest, there’s positives and negatives and I know I might be shot down for saying that, but there’s many different things that they really have to be dug into and that’s why I’m hoping by the time the second reading comes these are fleshed out, because there’s more questions than answers right now,” said Hyggen. 

During an unrelated media news conference, Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips expressed her concern about Bill 20 and the implications of it at a municipal level. 

“This ability to dismiss any duly elected councillor with the stroke of a pen around the cabinet table is draconian, it is authoritarian and it is a massive overreach by the premier,” said Phillips. 

She said the introduction of political parties into the municipal process, which could funnel dark money from Smith’s friends and insiders into the political process, is  something Smith did not run on and is a widely opposed by Albertans. 

“No one asked for this. What people are asking for protecting our pensions and repairing the damage that five years of the UCP have done to our health care system. That’s what she should be focused on, but instead we have a focus on her extremist agenda that no one asked for,” said Phillips.

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SophieR

One wonders what Premier Parker and the puppet posse would think if the federal goverment were to pass a law that they could overturn provincial elections they didn’t like?

It is interesting with separatists that they want autonomy from powers above, while exerting authoritarian rule on powers below.

I believe Lethbridge should separate from Alberta, take the 50% of the APP we deserve, direct all funding from the province through City Council, and purge the libraries of stuff we don’t want to know.

It’s turtles all the way down.

ewingbt

I do realize there have been issues trying to terminate Councillors or Mayors who failed to fulfil their duties or followed policies in several municipalities in recent years, but allowing the province to make the final decision, is not the way. Municipal leaders who are elected by that municipality to serve that municipality should not be ruled by the provincial government in such matters.
There are some issues with the other amendments as well!
I wonder if the UCP really understands that they continue to alienate voters by these decisions.
The NDP lost power because they were not listening. The UCP already has alienated a large group just from the APP push, when Albertan’s want to remain in the CPP.
When a government doesn’t listen, they lose the next election . . . it has even been witnessed locally in the last election.
The NDP was closer the Conservatives from years ago and that attracted many Conservative voters, but many in this province didn’t want SCS’s or harm reduction policies pushed on them that has completely failed in BC and now our hundreds of millions of our federal tax dollars are blown in BC on these policies, including the ‘free’ safe supply which once they addict gets those prescibed safe supply drugs, they are sold to drug dealers and that money is then used to buy the preferred ‘toxic’ drugs that give the addicts that ‘buzz’ they seek! If the addicts hear everyone is overdosing a drug, they want it, because they want that ultimate high!
I support the UCP because they are focused on putting our tax dollars into treatment programs which reduce the issues in time, instead of increasing the issues by enabling addicts, and thinking that they will make the decision on their own when they want treatment, if there is anything left of their minds or bodies!
We have not seen the progress they will bring fully yet because it has taken time to get facilities built and trained personnel in place, but with the 50 SCS sites in BC and all of the hairbrained policies, they still have more fatal overdoses per capita then Alberta with only 7 SCS sites, or SK with one site or MB with no sites. More SCS sites only increased the issues.
The only reason I would vote for the UCP in the next election would be because of the direction they have taken to end this crisis by treatment based policies, but with all the other radical policies . . . I am not sure!
My biggest fear of the NDP would be to move away from this treatment based policy and mimic BC! That would cost even more lives and we would soon be spending billions on non-profits annually, as BC is!
I like more AB NDP policies than UCP, but their pro-harm reducion and other policies are a deal breaker. There are only so many tax dollars to go around and BC has proven over 21 years of harm reduction that is a failure!
When will the UCP wake up and listen to the people . . . the electorate!

UncleBuck

Sometimes you make a point that sounds great but then BAM “the SCS!!!”

Something over and done with YEARS ago, yet you and the five other dorks on this commentary is scs this and harm reduction that.

Get a life! Get a job! Do something useful for crying out loud. It has literally been YEARS since that place closed down and we have the rise of christofascists in provincial office.

God bless you and the horse you rode in on.

To quote the dude: “Walter, this has nothing to do with Viet-$&@%*¥-nam!”

Last edited 23 days ago by UncleBuck
Montreal13

There is and has been for years an OPS overdose prevention site right by the shelter. Same thing as an SCS, as it performs the same function. I believe there is a similar site actually in a section of the shelter for certain cases. The OPS has been there since the more visible SCS was shut down.
So it was not over and done with years ago,which makes it somewhat of a shell game., if some people aren’t aware that it is there.

Montreal13

But of course when some councilors have been asked if there is a SCS in town they have readily answered ,”Oh no”. Knowing full well that there is a similar facility but just relabeled. They wouldn’t want any residents being alarmed.

ewingbt

The SCS destroyed our city, not just downtown and the NDP is pro-harm reduction and I am sure would once again bring one or more back if elected. I fought to the NDP to not open the SCS and then to close it, but they ignored us!
If you cannot show respect when making your comments, then don’t comment. Namecalling gets you nowhere!
I am sorry you do not see the correlation and I have a life and a job!
Literaly years since it was shutdown? It has only been 4 years and downtown business is still dealing with the negative impacts it created.
There still is an OPS operating at the shelter, but at least that shelter is now operated much better than under Alpha House! But that OPS is not the ‘party palace’ the SCS was less people are now dying just after leaving it, one right in the parking lot, while many others within 2 blocks! It was a poor decision that was made and none of us should ever forget it!
Again, if you cannot make your point without name calling, don’t comment at all!

Last edited 23 days ago by ewingbt
R.U.Serious

Barry, I concur with you and thank you once more. My business has not completely recuperated from the increased financial expenses and lost revenues from the impacts the SCS caused.
Fortunately, the administration and council of this city are taking positive steps to end this. How many are aware of the tens of millions of our property tax dollars have been burned through alone during this crisis? Naturally, some people who comment on this thread appear to think that those funds just appear out of thin air! 
I value you defending common decency for our city and standing for what is right! Don’t stop!

Southern Albertan

This:
“The Municipal government Act already gives the government power to fire councillors – so why fix what ain’t broke? Soviet style government? Angry words about the NDP from 2016 and sound like what the UCP is up to now.”
http://www.albertapolitics.ca

buckwheat

Agree to a point. Trying to shorten the process. It took almost 3 years for the Chestermere action.

[…] publicly denounced it. Hoping to unpack its intricacies, Mayor Blaine Hyggen has read Bill 20 and highlighted many […]



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