The province of Alberta is comprised of approximately 350 municipalities and many are growing.
According to the 2016 Census of Canada, Alberta leads the provinces in both rural and urban population growth, with an increase of 421,918 new residents – an 11.6% rise since the 2011 Census count.
It is little wonder that in recent years, the government of Alberta has undertaken work to update the Municipal Government Act (MGA), one of the province’s largest bodies of legislation. The MGA guides how municipalities function; how they provide services that in the opinion of council, are necessary or desirable for all or a part of the municipality.
Until April 1, 2018, municipalities fell outside of the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction and could not be investigated by our office. Calls from complainants with a concern about an unfair administrative decision and/or decision-making process at the municipal level would be considered non-jurisdictional, and our office would refer the complainant elsewhere.
Since the Alberta government assigned the Ombudsman the authority to investigate municipalities, the primary task of the Alberta Ombudsman has been instilling confidence in municipalities and complainants that involving the Ombudsman is a fair and effective way to resolve complaints. The Ombudsman investigates matters of administration, not policy decisions made by elected councils. Distinguishing between the two often requires careful consideration and explanation.
The Alberta Ombudsman objectively investigates complaints to determine whether a municipality has acted fairly and reasonably, and whether its actions and decisions were consistent with relevant legislation, policies and procedures. At the two-year mark working with this jurisdictional sector, the Ombudsman released Building Relationships with Albertans – Municipality Report, a series of case examples highlighting the benefits of a collaborative approach to resolving complaints about municipalities.
If you are a Chief Administrative Officer looking for more about the Ombudsman and municipalities, check out our Frequently Asked Questions – the answer may already be here for you. You may also find our Fundamentals of a Complaints Mechanism and Internal Complaint Mechanisms Checklist to be of use.