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Calgary committee endorses letter of concern over reopening of Municipal Government Act

Calgary councillors agreed that a letter should come from Mayor Jyoti Gondek outlining concerns with the province reopening the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

Coun. Kourtney Penner brought the motion forward after a discussion at Wednesday’s Intergovernmental Affairs committee meeting. It comes after the province said it would table legislation to prevent new municipal public health bylaws from coming in.

It would require the province to reopen the Municipal Government Act for amendments.

Penner thought it would be wise to document the city’s concerns.

“I want to recognize that writing letters, while the procedure can change, creates a paper trail, and it creates something that we can reflect back on as governments change over time, as our respective governments change at all levels,” Penner said.

This week, Premier Jason Kenney said they were introducing the legislation to ensure unity and limit confusion over public health rules. The province removed most Covid-19 public health rules March 1.

The Premier was asked about the MGA changes again on Wednesday. Media asked why he wanted cities to implement their own rules earlier in the pandemic, but not now. Premier Kenney reiterated the desire for unity and clarity since there was no public health reason to continue with restrictions.

“What I think we now see is an effort by a very small number of people to politicize this,” he said.

“We should not allow politicians at any level to use COVID policy as a political tool to make political points.”

More bylaws allow city to oversee health and safety of citizens

Earlier in the conversation, Coun. Penner asked administration if there were other city bylaws that could fall under the umbrella of public health.

Penner cited speed limits, smoking bylaws, water and wastewater management.

Amanda Hart with the city’s law department confirmed.

“You’re correct in that we have a number of different bylaws that would be impacted by any MGA amendments that broadly define public health orders or public health impacts,” Hart told councillors.

Further, Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra said while there was some cooperation and Calgary’s Emergency Management Agency took the lead when it could, they were often on the sidelines.

“Our emergency management agency with all of its capability has been sort of sitting on the sidelines, twiddling its thumbs, when it could have been rolling up its sleeves and really doing amazing work that needed to be done,” he said.

It’s unclear at this time if the other city bylaws could be impacted in the future.

No letter without understanding the contents

Both Couns. Andre Chabot and Dan McLean said they couldn’t support the letter being written. They didn’t know what it was going to say.

(Note: Council approves a regular barrage of letters to other institutions and governments. The specific contents are not overseen by council.)

“The reason I struggle with this motion is because there’s no specific direction and I don’t know what the province is contemplating,” Coun. Chabot said.

“I’m just not sure where this was going.”

While not opposed, Coun. Jasmine Mian questioned the efficacy of a letter and if there are other methods for advocacy.  Admin said the letter does put their concern on the record and it does typically receive some sort of response.  Advocacy with area MLAs is another way to reach the province, admin said.

Mayor Gondek reassured council members that she’ll seek feedback from administration and council members on their priorities and concerns with the reopening the MGA.

Councillors approved the letter in a 6-2 vote.