Strong municipalities support healthy communities, a prosperous province and a strong nation. The Government of Alberta is committed to creating accountable, responsible and transparent local governments. Doing so requires respect for the autonomy of municipal governments to make local decisions. At the same time, the municipal and provincial governments of Alberta recognize the need for partnership to make sure that Alberta communities are strong and healthy, now and into the future. The Government of Alberta provides legislation and other tools to support the viability and accountability of municipalities.
Part 4 of the Municipal Government Act allows for municipal restructuring processes, including status changes, amalgamation, annexation, and dissolution that can be used to address municipal viability.
Municipal Affairs has also developed a number of tools for assessing and supporting municipal sustainability. These include capacity building tools, key measures, the self-assessment questionnaire, and the viability reviews process.
Further Background. The viability review process was conceived in 2010 as a key component of the Municipal Sustainability Strategy (MSS). For further background on the strategy and the viability review process, view the 2010 Report of the Municipal Sustainability Strategy Working Group here.
Municipal restructuring involves changing the type of municipality, adjusting the borders of a municipality, creating new municipalities, or dissolving existing municipalities. These changes are meant to help meet the needs of Alberta communities and their residents. Municipal status changes are changes in the type of municipality and are based on population size or density. Amalgamations and annexations involve changes to the geographic boundaries of municipalities. Formation is the creation of a new municipality. Dissolution means that a municipality ceases to operate or exist as a distinct municipality.
Status changes are when a municipality changes from one type of municipality to another type. The types of municipalities are based on population size or density and include municipal districts, villages, summer villages, towns, cities, or specialized municipalities. A municipality’s status type can change based on decreases or increases in the size or density of the population, or other special considerations.
Amalgamation is when two or more municipalities with shared borders join together to become one municipality. Municipalities may amalgamate if they believe they can operate more effectively or efficiently together rather than separately. Municipalities usually initiate amalgamation voluntarily. The Minister of Municipal Affairs can also initiate an amalgamation.
Annexation is when one municipality acquires land from a bordering municipality in order to provide room for its own population growth. The municipality from which the lands are acquired should not be affected in a negative way due to the annexation. Municipalities can initiate annexations by making an application to the Municipal Government Board.
Formation is the creation of a new municipality as allowed by the Municipal Government Act. The creation of a new municipality is also known as incorporation. In 2001 the Minister of Municipal Affairs directed, under the authority of section 76 of the MGA, that new municipalities should not be created if doing so leads to an increase in the total number of Alberta municipalities. Currently other municipal restructuring processes are being used to promote viable Alberta communities.
Dissolution is when a municipality ceases to operate or exist as a distinct municipality. Dissolution is allowed in sections 130 to 134.1 of the Municipal Government Act. When a municipality dissolves, another municipality usually takes over governance of the area. Dissolution may be beneficial for a number of reasons. For instance, if a municipality is struggling financially, another municipality may have more financial resources to provide services to residents. It may also be more efficient to have one municipality providing many of the same services, such as emergency or utility services, to a larger area. It may also make sense to become part of another municipality if there are ongoing difficulties with filling council positions. A viability review can help individual municipalities determine whether dissolution is a good option.
Alberta Municipal Affairs, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties, and other Alberta municipal associations have a wide variety of capacity-building tools to support municipalities as they respond to the changing needs of their citizens. Links to these tools are provided in the Capacity-Building Tools document, which can also also be accessed through the links provided in the self-assessment questionnaire.
Key measures were developed in 2010 that can be applied to all Alberta municipalities to help assess viability. There are currently 10 key measures, which can be viewed here: Key Measures of Municipal Sustainability The key measures are used as an initial screening tool to identify municipalities that may benefit from additional ministry support, such as a viability review to assess and recommend municipal viability strategies.
The self-assessment questionnaire PDF / MS Word is intended to provide local municipal councils and administrations with a tool to evaluate and understand their current situation, to identify areas of strength to continue building upon, and also to identify areas where improvement may be desirable or necessary.
The questionnaire provides linkages to capacity-building tools, offering easy access to meaningful opportunities to strengthen municipal performance where desired or necessary. Information on interpreting the results of the questionnaire, and determining next steps, is included at the end of the questionnaire.
Alberta Municipal Affairs and your municipal association are available to provide assistance and additional information to support the completion and interpretation of the questionnaire.
The current process for viability reviews, which began in June 2012, helps promote municipal sustainability. The viability review process replaced the dissolution studies formerly used by the ministry. The process helps municipalities determine their viability and, where necessary, develop a plan that leads to municipal viability.
The viability review process provides information to the public and to municipal leaders in a timely and inclusive way. The process also brings key decision makers together, and empowers communities to make sound decisions about their future based on collaboration, cooperation and a vision of success.
For more information on the viability review process and information on current viability reviews, go to the Viability Reviews page.