For the fifth year, Mayor Richard Ireland delivered a State of the Municipality address to members of the Jasper Park Chamber of Commerce this week. The 30-minute address touched on a variety of topics, ranging from the recent changes to the Municipal Government Act to Jasper’s perennial housing shortage and the municipality’s negotiations with Parks Canada on how to best manage land use planning and development in the future.
Below are some of the highlights.
Municipal Government Act
“The MGA has recently seen a major revision. The new act, the Modernized Municipal Government Act, represents a once-in-a-generation change.
"We had hoped for more substantive change. We were not alone.
"Jasper had supported the position of our provincial association, AUMA, which advocated for new revenue tools for all Alberta municipalities. The attitude among elected municipal councils throughout the province is consistent with that in Jasper: property tax is increasingly recognized as ineffective, inequitable.”
Alternative Funding Sources
“We continue to make the case to have our tourism communities – the workhorses of the provincial tourism economy - recognized as having unique challenges.
"We continue to seek recognition, or status, first: acknowledgment of our special circumstances and of our special ability to help the Province meet its own tourism targets. With recognition of our status and our role, we intend to pursue – with the Province – the identification and acquisition of specific tools best suited to meet common objectives.”
Property Taxes and Assessments
“We can – as we have – work to limit property tax increases, but we have been required to paint with a very broad brush: we cannot achieve equities within the commercial sector which reflect the diverse impacts of the current economy. Until now, we have been permitted to apply one tax rate to all properties within the class of non-residential.
"That is about to change.
"Under the new legislation, it is proposed that municipalities will be allowed to increase the number of sub-classes of non-residential property and will be able to set different taxation rates for those different sub-classes. We could, conceivably, have an accommodation or hotel sub-class, a restaurant sub-class, a retail sub-class, perhaps an entertainment sub-class, maybe a professional or office sub-class. And each could be taxed at a different rate. That might produce greater equity. But regardless, we will still have a property tax; a tax levied against the property owner, not against the business: equity, I fear, will still be impaired.”
Land Use Planning and Development
“In 2015, the Municipality and Parks Canada completed a Land Use Governance Review, the purpose of which was to document the current system; identify opportunities for service improvements, including the business licensing process; and establish a common base of understanding to support discussions on how land use planning and development can be best managed in the future. The consultant’s report was received and reviewed locally and has since been sent to Ottawa for further consideration. Where it will lead remains unknown.
"The good news is that Mr. Fercho and I are scheduled to meet with Parks Canada officials in Ottawa on this subject later this month. Of course, I can’t say what that meeting will bring, but it is significant that the issue is now to be discussed at the federal, not the local level. It is only at the federal level where changes to the Governance Agreement might be made.”
Jasper’s Housing Shortage
“Government, at all levels, has a role to play, but do not overlook or diminish the value of self-help. There is land within the community which is properly zoned and under-utilized. Joint ventures or partnerships within the private sector may advance options and opportunities more quickly than government initiatives.”
“Of all the internal and external factors influencing the state of the Municipality, one of the most impactful will take place this fall: a municipal election. For only the sixth time in our history, Jasper residents have an opportunity to elect a Municipal Council.
"Some of you may covet the position: I hope you will run. Some of you will have in mind someone else you think would make an exceptional candidate: I hope you will nominate. Some will see others who chose to run and will recognize potential: I hope you will offer support.
"All of you will recognize that a healthy community depends upon an engaged citizenry. Your next council will be as effective as you make it.”
Mayor Ireland’s 2017 State of the Municipality Address