Calgary councilors agreed that a letter should come from Mayor Jyoti Gondek outlining concerns about the province’s reopening of the Municipal Government Act (MGA).
Com. Kourtney Penner introduced the motion after discussion at Wednesday’s intergovernmental affairs committee meeting. It comes after the province said it would introduce legislation to prevent the entry of new municipal public health regulations.
This would require the province to reopen the Municipal Government Act to make changes.
Penner thought it would be wise to document the town’s concerns.
“I want to recognize that writing letters, although the procedure may change, creates a paper trail, and it creates something that we can reflect on as governments change over time, as our respective governments change. at all levels,” Penner said.
This week, Premier Jason Kenney said he was introducing the bill to ensure unity and limit confusion over public health rules. The province scrapped most Covid-19 public health rules on March 1.
On Wednesday, the prime minister was asked again about the changes to the MGA. The 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 maintain the restrictions.
“What I think we’re seeing now 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 politics as a political tool to make political arguments.”
More regulations allow the city to oversee the health and safety of citizens
Earlier in the conversation, the con. Penner asked the administration if there were any other city bylaws that might fall under public health.
Penner cited speed limits, smoking regulations, water and waste water management.
Amanda Hart with the city legal department confirmed.
“You are correct in that we have a number of different regulations that would be affected by any MGA amendment that broadly defines public health orders or public health impacts,” Hart told advisers.
Also, the con. Gian-Carlo Carra said while there was some cooperation and the Calgary Emergency Management Agency took the lead when they could, they were often sidelined.
“Our emergency management agency, with all of its capabilities, has been kind of sitting on the sidelines, twiddling its thumbs, when it could have rolled up its sleeves and done truly amazing work that needed to be done,” did he declare.
It is unclear at this time whether other municipal bylaws may be affected in the future.
No letter without understanding the content
Both Com. Andre Chabot and Dan McLean said they could not support the writing of the letter. They didn’t know what he was going to say.
(Note: The Board approves a regular barrage of letters to other institutions and governments. Specific content is not overseen by the board.)
“The reason I’m struggling with this motion is because there’s no specific direction and I don’t know what the province is considering,” the adviser said. Chabot said.
“I just don’t know where it was going.”
Although he does not oppose it, the con. Jasmine Mian questioned the effectiveness of a letter and whether there are other methods of advocacy. The administrator said the letter outlines her concerns and she usually receives some sort of response. Advocacy with local MPs is another way to reach the province, the administrator said.
Mayor Gondek reassured council members that she will be seeking input from the administration and council members on their priorities and concerns regarding the reopening of the MGA.
Councilors approved the letter by a vote of 6 to 2.