Do Recent Amendments to Alberta's Municipal Government Act Enable Management of Surface Water Resources and Air Quality?


  • Judy Stewart Research Fellow at the Canadian Institute of Resources Law



Since 2015, new provisions have been added to Alberta’s Municipal Government Act (MGA) that arguably authorize municipalities to manage components of the environment, such as surface water resources and air quality at the local and regional geopolitical landscape scales. Since 2013, Part 17.1 enabled voluntary formation of “growth management boards” (GMBs) by two or more participating municipalities, and once appointed by the Minister, GMBs are empowered to create “growth plans” to govern growth-related land use decision-making processes within the boundaries of the participating municipalities. Part 17.1 was amended in 2016 and new regulations followed in 2017. City Charter provisions enacted in 2015 give broad governance powers to cities. MGA provisions that create both these new institutional arrangements do not preclude GMBs or cities from developing municipal environmental management objectives. Recent additional MGA amendments enacted as the Modernized Municipal Government Act (MMGA) in December 2016, and further amendments in the spring of 2017 added a preamble, defined “body of water” for the purposes of the MGA, provided for intermunicipal collaborative governance of land use, and amended the environmental reserve provisions and other regulatory aspects of Part 17: Planning and Development. Two new purposes of municipal government were added: “to work collaboratively with neighbouring municipalities to plan, deliver and fund intermunicipal services,” and “to foster the well-being of the environment.” In this article, amendments to the MGA since 2015 are examined and analyzed in light of Alberta’s regional watershed scale land use policy, legislation, and regulations to determine if Alberta municipalities are now authorized to manage the environment, specifically surface water resources and water quality.