Edmonton

Fort McMurray work camp moratorium bylaw defeated at council

Wood Buffalo councillors defeated the first reading of a bylaw that would put a moratorium on work camps within 75 kilometres of Fort McMurray.

The moratorium has been a divisive issue for Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo council

Worker camp housing projects at the Suncor Firebag in-situ oil sands operations near Fort McMurray, Alberta, September 17, 2014. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

A contentious proposed bylaw that would ban work camps within 75 kilometres of Fort McMurray has been quashed after a tie vote defeated the bylaw's first reading Tuesday night. 

Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo Mayor Don Scott introduced the proposed moratorium in January as a way to increase the population in Fort McMurray and boost the economy. 

He has cited work camps as part of the reason businesses are struggling and homeowners are forced to foreclose in Fort McMurray. 

The motion summary states that in 2018, work camps accounted for 29 per cent of the region's population. In 2011, work camps accounted for 22 per cent of the region's population, according to the Municipal Development Plan.  

Scott and Councillors John Inglis, Phil Meagher, Jeff Peddle and Jane Stroud voted in favour of the moratorium on Tuesday.

Councillors Mike Allen, Krista Balsom, Sheila Lalonde, Verna Murphy and Claris Voyageur voted against. 

Coun. Keith McGrath did not participate in the vote as he recused himself because of a possible pecuniary interest.

On June 4, councillors voted in favour of moving ahead with a list of recommendations to incentivize fly-in, fly-out workers to live in Fort McMurray. 

One of the goals on that list is to reduce the percentage of the population living in work camps to 10 per cent. 

Mayor Don Scott initially introduced the motion to put a moratorium on work camps. (David Thurton/ CBC)

More consistency for camp permits

Councillors on Tuesday passed the first reading of a bylaw that could impact camps by forcing businesses to apply for their work camp permits every four years. 

There is currently no cap on permits. The length of the permit is currently at the discretion of the development officer. 

Over the last 10 years, permits have been approved for 10, five and two years.

The change is meant to bring more consistency to the permitting process. 

The application for a permit will also be altered to include a long list of required information, including a FireSmart plan, emergency management plan and site plan. 

Community members will have an opportunity to voice their opinions on the proposal at a public hearing on July 9. 

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