Rocky View County's opposition to the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) has grown into a province-wide push by rural municipalities to get rid of mandatory growth management boards.
Nearly 90 per cent of Alberta's rural municipalities supported a resolution to eliminate mandatory growth management boards. Now the Rural Municipalities Association of Alberta (RMA) will be taking up the fight.
Rocky View County (RVC) has been in long-standing opposition to any regional board. It refused to join its predecessor, the Calgary Regional Partnership.
While required to be a member of the CMRB, it continues to be defiant of its need. In contrast, the Town of Cochrane is a strong proponent and was also a key player in the previous Calgary Regional Partnership.
RVC Reeve Greg Boehlke has been there from the start. He believes it's an unnecessary and costly layer of government.
From his perspective, the regional boards are not about planning as much as they are about control by Calgary and Edmonton.
"Frankly, these growth management boards put a lot of questions in the air about compatibility in the region, the mistrust, the lack of any kind of consistency in planning the region, and the uncertainty that it raises for the development community.
Plus, they just bleed dollars. It's a fourth level of unelected government that spends taxpayers money like it's water."
He claims the Alberta government pumped $30 to $40 million into the previous Calgary Regional Partnership before it folded in March 2018, though the government has not released that information. The work it completed was discarded, he says.
"They ended up with a whole bunch of studies and kept a bunch of consulting firms busy. The new board says all the studies are of no value; they can't be used."
"You don’t need to be forced into a growth plan, and told you have to be the same as the City of Calgary to be successful. It’s just not true."
"You don’t need a growth management board. You need collaboration with your neighbours."
Mayor Jeff Genung, who is vice-chair of the CMRB, believes the board does provide an opportunity to promote regional causes and wants RVC to give it time.
"What disappointments me is there has never been a real concerted effort to work together," says Genung.
"We need to have a real discussion about how to work together, what the makeup of the board is, and how it’s going to work. How does Rocky View County know that we wouldn’t support a lot of their initiatives? We’ve never been given that opportunity."
"I hope that we find a way, and we make a plan that is great for the entire region. Then when the plan is in place we can start working on things that we can all benefit from.
"Continually trying to erode, and undermined, and hold it up just gets frustrating. It’s disappointing."
The discontent is widespread, and not just isolated to Rocky View, says Boehlke. A caucus of rural municipalities has concluded it's not all rosy.
He points to just one example of how Edmonton used its veto power to prevent the City of Beaumont's efforts to annex land.
"What I heard was they have a lot of the same issues. They feel their economy is getting stripped, and the rights of taxpayers who are paying the bills in their municipalities aren't being heard in the way that they should."
Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie says he has discussed the issue with Reeve Boehlke and understands their concerns. But he also sees the value in increasing communications between partner municipalities.
With the strong support for the resolution, he believes Municipal Affairs will be taking a closer look.
"From the ministry's perspective, they're trying not to step on any toes. They are trying to have the regional boards deal with it on their own."
"From their perspective--now that this motion was passed at RMA and put forward with a very high percentage--I suspect that they will have to have another look at this."
Despite growing pressure, Mayor Jeff Genung has faith the regional body will continue.
"The fact that the government has laid out funding until the end of their four-year term indicates they see value in the board continuing."