Alberta municipalities face 25 per cent infrastructure funding cut

Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver says the cuts are necessary since the province is facing a $18.2-billion deficit in the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Bill 56 also more than doubles cellphone 911 levies to pay for modernization

Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver says Alberta municipalities need to learn to live within their means. (Alberta Legislature )

The Alberta government is cutting infrastructure money to municipalities by 25 per cent over the next three years. 

The change, which was released in the 2021 Budget, is enabled by Bill 56, the Local Measures Statutes Amendment Act, 2021, that was tabled in the Alberta legislature Thursday by Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver. 

Under the bill, the remaining funding under the Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI), $2.5 billion over three years, would be reduced to $2.17 billion and spread out over an additional two years.

The Local Government Fiscal Framework Act, which would come into effect on April 1, 2021, originally had Calgary and Edmonton sharing $455 million starting in the 2019-20 fiscal year. That amount would be cut to $382 million under Bill 56. 

Other Alberta municipalities and Métis settlements were set to share $405 million under the original plan. That amount would be cut to $340 million. 

The funding framework laid out in the LGFFA will not come into effect until 2024-25. 

McIver said the measure is necessary since the province faces a $18.2-billion deficit in the 2021-22 fiscal year. He acknowledged the cut will be a challenge for municipalities. 

"I understand that they have a difficult job to do and they are trying to meet the needs of their citizens," he said. "But I would ask them to do the same thing that their citizens have had to do, is to live within their means."

McIver said municipalities received $500 million in provincial stimulus funding last year.

Calgary-Buffalo MLA Joe Ceci, the NDP critic for municipal affairs, said the government is making municipalities pay for the province's financial mistakes, such as corporate tax cuts, and Alberta's $1.3 billion investment in the cancelled Keystone XL pipeline.

"What this government has done is they ripped up the big city charters, they now today have pushed off the LGFF for another two years and they've reduced MSI in the meantime, saying, well, you know, we don't have the money," Ceci said. 

"Well, they don't have the money because of their own reckless spending."

Bill 56 would also increase the monthly 911 levy paid by every Alberta cellphone user from 41 cents to 95 cents starting Sept. 1 to help pay for new federally mandated upgrades. 

The new Next Generation 911 technology upgrades must be in place by March 20, 2024. It allows for texting to 911, allowing domestic violence victims a safer way to reach out for help. 

Municipalities have to fund half the cost of the upgrades, which are estimated at $41 million a year. The other half comes from wireless and landline 911 levies.