Viability Reviews

What is a Viability Review

The viability review is a process that was approved in June 2012 through which municipalities can determine their viability and develop a plan to enhance viability. The review provides an objective analysis of the municipality’s governance, finances, infrastructure and services and may lead to recommendations for maintaining viability. Viability reviews are meant to evaluate whether a municipality is sustainable, not to examine council or administrative practices.

Regardless of a viability review, municipalities can also complete the self-assessment questionnaire PDF / MS Word to identify actions they can take to promote ongoing municipal sustainability.

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The Viability Review Process

Step 1: Initiating a Viability Review

A viability review may be initiated in one of three ways:

1. Council request: A municipal council can write to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and request a review if council believes that the sustainability or viability of the municipality is in jeopardy and cannot be mitigated through the use of the self-assessment tool-kit. Municipalities should include a completed self-assessment questionnaire PDF / MS Word with the request.

2. Citizen Petition: The residents of a municipality can petition the Minister to undertake a viability review. The petition must include the signatures of eligible voters totalling at least 30 per cent of the population, or 50 per cent for summer villages. A petition must include a statement of Representative of Petitioners and an affidavit for each person that witnessed the signing of a petition. Municipal Affairs reviews the petition to ensure it is sufficient.

The petition must be prepared according to the guidelines found in the Information Handout on Petitions to ensure all legislated requirements are met. Prospective petitioners are encouraged to contact the Municipal Sustainability Team by email at viabilityreview@gov.ab.ca or by phone toll-free at 310-0000 (in Alberta), then 780-427-2225, prior to starting a petition.

3. Minister’s Discretion: The Minister may undertake a viability review if the Minister believes it is warranted, such as when a municipality triggers the Key Measures of Municipal Sustainability.

Step 2: Screening 

The goal of the screening is to help the Minister decide if a viability review would be most helpful to address the issues identified.Upon a council request or sufficient citizen petition, ministry staff may gather information to understand why the request or petition happened. The screening may involve collection of supporting documentation and interviews with both the review and potential receiving municipality.  After reviewing information from the screening, the Minister determines whether the viability review, or another process such as an inspection, audit, or additional provincial supports, would be most appropriate. If the Minister chooses to undertake a viability review, ministry staff begin step 3.

Step 3: Information Collection and Analysis

Municipal Affairs’ staff members begin information collection and analysis of the review municipality. The municipality initiates an infrastructure assessment or audit to provide as information to the review, for which it can apply for funding under the Alberta Community Partnership Program. A Viability Review Team (VRT) is then formed according to the direction of Municipal Affairs’ senior officials to review and analyze the municipality’s viability based on the information collected.

The VRT is composed of representatives from Municipal Affairs, the municipality undergoing the review, the potential receiving municipality (if the review municipality were to dissolve) and municipal associations. Alberta municipal associations include the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), Alberta Rural Municipal Administrators Association (ARMAA), Alberta Summer Villages Association (ASVA), Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), and the Local Government Administration Association (LGAA).

Stakeholder engagement and community involvement is integral throughout the review. The community is typically engaged through a combination of mailed communications, surveys, open houses, and public meetings.

Step 4: Viability Recommendations and Options

After a comprehensive review of the governance, finances, programs and services offered by the municipality, the VRT develops a report with recommendations for the municipality. The report, or Viability Plan, outlines a minimum of two options. The first option involves recommendations on changes that could be made to achieve municipal viability. However, the municipality may not be able to make the recommended changes for various reasons. Because of this, a second option explores the changes and impacts to residents of having the municipality dissolve and become part of a bordering municipality.

After the viability plan has been reviewed by Municipal Affairs staff, the plan is sent to residents and presented at a public meeting by Municipal Affairs staff. Residents and the councils of the review and potential receiving municipality then have 30 days to provide written comments for the Minister’s consideration regarding their preference for either implementing changes to achieve viability or dissolving the municipality. The Minister then reviews this feedback, along with the viability plan and recommendations, and any relevant events that led to the review or have happened since the review started. The Minister may then either issue ministerial directives (Step 5a) or hold a public vote (Step 5b).  Depending on the results of either process, the Minister may choose to undertake further action (see Steps 5a and 5b).

Step 5a: Ministerial Directives

The Minister may choose to direct a municipality to take certain actions, called directives, that ensure the viability of the municipality. The directives are specific to the municipality, are based on the information collected during the review, and are based on the recommendations developed by the viability review team. The municipality is required to comply with the directives. If the municipality has difficulty achieving the directives, the Minister may choose to undertake further action(s).

Step 5b: Public vote

If after reviewing comments of residents and councils, the Minister decides a vote will be held, it is administered by Municipal Affairs staff in accordance with the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA).

To be eligible to vote, a person must be: 1) at least 18 years of age, 2) a Canadian citizen, 3) a resident of Alberta for the six months immediately preceding election day, and 4) must have their residence located in that municipality on election day. According to the LAEA, residents of another municipality, or who own property but whose primary place of residence is not in that municipality, are not eligible to vote. A person’s primary residence is usually the one to which their tax returns are addressed or is on their driver’s license.

A public vote is held on the following two options:

  1. Implement changes to achieve viability, or
  2. Dissolve and become part of a neighboring municipality.

If a majority of residents vote for option one (implement changes), the Minister may issue directives which the review municipality must comply with. If the majority of residents vote for option two (dissolve), Minister is required to recommend dissolution to the provincial Cabinet, who will then make the final decision on dissolution.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Viability Reviews

1. How long does a viability review take?  Typically 9 to 12 months, but some may take longer due to council or staff vacancies, completing the infrastructure audit, or other reasons.

2. How much does the review cost? The cost depends on the amount of information to be reviewed and analyzed, the number of meetings and amount of travel required for staff and members of the Viability Review Team.

3. Who is responsible for the costs of the review? 

  • Municipal Affairs pays for 1) Ministry staff time and materials for researching, writing, printing, and distributing information and reports, 2) the cost of public meetings and community engagement activities, and 3) a municipal grant to pay for the infrastructure audit.
  • Municipalities pay for costs of municipal staff to compile information for Municipal Affairs, travel costs to meetings, costs of additional council meetings, and remuneration for councillors to attend Viability Review Team meetings.
  • Municipal Associations pay for travel costs to meetings and remuneration for association members to attend Viability Review Team meetings.

4. How can I participate? Members of the municipality are provided with opportunities to provide input into the viability review process. This may include surveys, delegations to Viability Review Team meetings, open houses and public meetings. If the process leads to a vote, electors will be able to vote on whether or not to dissolve the municipality.

Contact the Municipal Viability Team

If you have any questions about viability reviews or request a presentation for your council meeting on viability reviews, please call the Municipal Sustainability team toll-free in Alberta at 310-0000, then 780-427-2225, or via email at viabilityreview@gov.ab.ca

 

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Current Viability Reviews

 

Town of Grande Cache

Current Status: The Town of Grande Cache, the Municipal District of Greenview, and the province are preparing a report identiyfing how municipal governance and services would change if Grande Cache were to dissolve and become part of the Municipal District of Greenview. The report will be distributed to town residents and property owners in early fall followed by a public information session and vote.

Past Activities:

  • In June 2016, the Town of Grande Cache requested a viability review be undertaken. The Minister approved the process, and the town was provided with grant funding to complete an infrastructure study as part of the viability review, which was complete in September 2017 and accepted by the town in November 2017.
  • In November 2017, the town requested the Minister defer the viability review in order for the town to continue discussions directly with the Municipal District of Grande Cache, which was granted.
  • The ministry has been providing the municipalities with advice and information in 2018 on the Municipal Government Act with respect to municipal restructuring.

Questions & Answers

Q. What is a viability review? A viability review involves a detailed examination and analysis of a municipality's governance, finances, infrastructure and services to determine what changes it needs to make to remain viable. There are 342 municipalities in Alberta and there are typically only a handful of viability reviews in any given year.

Q. How did the Grande Cache viability review start? The Town of Grande Cache council submitted a request on June 1, 2016 for the province to conduct a review.

Q. What has happened so far? With financial support from the province, the town and the Municipal District of Greenview hired an engineering firm to study Grande Cache’s infrastructure and identify assets that will need to be upgraded in the future. The town accepted the infrastructure report in November 2017. Following that, the Town of Grande Cache requested a temporary pause on the viability review to hold internal discussions with the Municipal District of Greenview on how to best proceed.

Q. What are the next steps in the viability review? Together the town, the municipal district, and province will prepare a report identifying how community governance and municipal services would change if Grande Cache were to become part of the Municipal District of Greenview.  Upon provincial approval, the report would be made public, followed by an information session. A vote would be held on whether the community should remain a stand-alone municipality with its own government or if it should become part of the Municipal District of Greenview.

Q. If the town residents vote to support dissolution (where the community becomes part of the Municipal District of Greenview), what happens next?  The final decision on dissolution rests with the provincial government. If the vote supports dissolution, the Minister of Municipal Affairs will recommend to Cabinet that the community be dissolved. If the provincial government approves the dissolution, the municipal assets and activities of the town will be assumed by the Municipal District of Greenview. Community residents will be eligible to vote and run in the Municipal District of Greenview elections.

Q. If town residents vote to remain as a stand-alone municipality, what happens next? If a vote supports remaining as a stand-alone town, the process will be concluded and no changes will be made to the town’s status. Municipal services will continue to be delivered by the town, and eligible town residents will continue to be able to vote in elections for town council and to run in council elections. The provincial government may order the town council and administration to take specific actions that will support viability.

Q. If a vote is held, will I be eligible to participate? The voting process will follow the normal process used to elect town council every four years. If you are a resident of the Town of Grande Cache and eligible to vote in municipal elections, you will be eligible to vote on the town’s future.

Q. I’m a resident of the MD of Greenview. Can I have a say about Grande Cache joining my municipality? The process for dissolution of a municipality is set out in legislation. The dissolution process requires that a vote be held in the community that may be dissolved, but does not provide for a vote in the surrounding municipality.

Q. Why is the province involved? If the Town of Grande Cache and the MD of Greenview want to restructure themselves, shouldn’t they be allowed to do that? The question of whether to restructure or remain as a stand-alone town is important to the future of the community and the surrounding region. Out of respect for the democratic rights of its citizens, provincial legislation requires due process and public awareness before any changes are made. In Alberta, municipalities are established under the authority of the Municipal Government Act, and any changes to the structure of municipalities are subject to provincial approval. 

Village of Champion

Current Status: 

  • A Viability Review Team (VRT) meeting was held in the Village of Champion on June 2, 2018.
    • The VRT reviewed the County's input for the report and discussed recommendations for the Village; the VRT expects to finalize the report over the summer.
  • Once the report is finalized and mailed to residents, a public engagement session will be hosted by Municipal Affairs, expected in early fall (date TBD).

Past Activities: 

  • The Village of Champion Viability Review was initiated on February 17, 2016 following the receipt of a petition.
  • On March 4, 2016, the Minister approved a grant of $150,000 for the village to undertake an infrastructure audit.
  • The infrastructure audit is anticipated to be completed by March 31, 2017.
  • A Viability Review Team (VRT) was formed in February 2017.
  • The VRT held its first meeting on February 28, 2017 in Champion.
  • A public engagement session was held on March 28, 2017.
  • New appointments were made to the Champion Viability Review Team (VRT) following the October municipal elections.
  • A Viability Review Team (VRT) meeting was held in the Village of Champion on March 1, 2018.

Public Notices and Reports:

  • The Viability Review Team hosted a public information session on March 28, 2017 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the Champion Hall (106 2nd Street North, Champion). Notice of Public Meeting (March 28, 2017)
  • For more information, please email Sarah Ranson or Micaela Miller, Project Leads for the Village of Champion Viability Review at sarah.ranson@gov.ab.ca or micaela.miller@gov.ab.ca

Village of Ferintosh

Current Status: The Village of Ferintosh Viability Review Team has begun to review information regarding all aspects of the village operations to ensure viability of the community on behalf of all residents.

Past Activities: 

  • Ministry staff began information collection activities in fall 2016.
  • An infrastructure audit was completed by the village (funded by Municipal Affairs).
  • The Viability Review Team established by Alberta Municipal Affairs will examine local governance & operations, services & infrastructure, and finances & property taxes to develop a comprehensive viability plan for consideration by Ferintosh residents and the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

Public Notices and Reports:

  • A public meeting to gather resident input will be held on th evening of April 12, 2018 at the Little Beaver Hi-U Senior Centre. Further details will be available by the end of March.
  • For more information, please email Roy Bedford, Project Lead for the Village of Ferintosh Viability Review at roy.bedford@gov.ab.ca

Village of Hill Spring

Current Status: The Minister will be reviewing recommendations from the Viability Review Team and issuing directives to the municipality.

Past Activities:

  • Viability review initiated in April 2015.
  • A Viability Review Team was formed in July 2015.
  • The Viability Review Team determined that the Village of Hill Spring is trending towards non-viability on September 15, 2015.
  • A public meeting was held on November 5, 2015 at the Hill Spring Community Centre.
  • The Viability Review Team determined the Village of Hill Spring to be trending towards non-viability.
  • The village's infrastructure audit was completed.
  • Facilitated discussions with Cardston County were held in early 2016.
  • The Viability Plan was completed in September 2016, with 32 recommendations to help council and administration address the long-term viability of the village.
  • The Chair of the Hill Spring Viability Review Team and the Project Lead presented the Village of Hill Spring Viability Plan at a special council meeting on September 19, 2016. The presentation can be downloaded here.
  • Minister approved to proceed to a vote of the electors on dissolution. A public information session was held on April 25, 2017.
  • A vote of the electors was held on May 3, 2017. There were 87 valid ballots cast, 50 (57 per cent) were in favour of remaining a municipality and 37 (43 per cent) were in favour of dissolving. There were no rejected ballots.

Public Notices and Reports:

  • Viability Plan (September 2016) - The Viability Plan provides information on the two viability options for Hill Spring to achieve viability. The first option is the Village of Hill Spring remains as a village and implements changes to achieve viability. The second option is to dissolve the Village of Hill Spring and Hill Spring becomes a hamlet in Cardston County.

Village of Hussar

Current Status: A public meeting will be held at the Hussar Community Hall on June 19, 2018 at 7 PM to collect feedback for the Minister regarding the viability options.

Past Activities:

  • The viability review was initiated in April 2015.
  • A Viability Review Team was formed in July 2015.
  • A public meeting was held on September 14, 2015 at the Hussar Community Hall.
  • An infrastructure audit was  accepted by council at its March 16, 2017 meeting, but has yet to be finalized.
  • The Viability Review Team met on April 3, 2017 and on May 29, 2017.

Public Notices and Reports:

Village of Innisfree

Current Status: Municipal Affairs is inviting council, the County of Minburn council, village residents, and property owners to a public meeting scheduled to start at 7:00 PM on June 27, 2018 at the Innisfree Recreation Centre, located at 5024 54 Street in Innisfree.

At this meeting, Municipal Affairs will:

  • present the viability plan and respond to questions;
  • provide an overview of the two viability options for Innisfree; and
  • explain the options for final steps of the viability review.

The viability plan, and input received during and following the public information meeting, will be submitted to the Minister of Municipal Affairs for determination of next steps. The Minister may choose to hold a public vote on a question of dissolution, or may decide that the Village of Innisfree will remain a municipality and implement action to ensure the village's long-term viability.

Past Activities:

  • The viability review was initiated in March 2016.
  • An infrastructure audit was completed by the village (funded by Municipal Affairs).
  • Ministry staff began information collection in June 2016.
  • The first Viability Review Team meeting was held on February 28, 2017.
  • Viability review Team meetings and public engagement sessions were held March 16, 2017 and April 11, 2017 in Innisfree.
  • The Village of Innisfree Viability Review Team (VRT) has reconvened after a hiatus resulting from the municipal elections cycle. During the hiatus information was collected by ministry staff.

Public Notices and Reports: The Viability plan can be accessed here: Innisfree Viability Plan.pdf

For more information, please email Roy Bedford, Project Lead for the Village of Innisfree Viability Review at roy.bedford@gov.ab.ca

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Completed Viability Reviews

Town of Swan Hills

Review Outcome: The Viability Review Team determined the Town of Swan Hills to be viable following the development of a long-term Viability Agreement between the Municipal District of Big Lakes (now Big Lakes County) and the Town of Swan Hills.

Summary of Viability Review:

  • The viability review was initiated in March 2013.
  • An initial stakeholder survey was sent out to residents in June 2013.
  • The Viability Review Team was formed in August 2013.
  • An Initial Findings Report was published in April 2014.
  • An open house and a public meeting were held on May 9, 2014 at the Swan Hills Keyano Centre.
  • A viability determination was made on September 8, 2014.
  • The Viability Determination and What We Have Heard Report was published in December 2014.

Public Notices and Reports:

Village of Berwyn

Current Status: The Minister has reviewed the viability plan and is providing the Village of Berwyn with directives through a Ministerial Order to ensure continued viability.

Past Activities:

  • The Village of Berwyn viability review was initiated on November 27, 2015 following the receipt of a council request.
  • On July 21, 2016, the Minister approved a grant of $100,000 for the village to undertake an infrastructure audit.
  • The infrastructure audit was completed and approved by village council on November 10, 2016.
  • A Viability Review Team was formed in January 2017.
  • The Viability Review Team hosted a public information session on February 16, 2017 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm at the Elks Community Centre.
  • The Viability Review Team met via teleconference on March 15, 2017.
  • The Viability Review Team concluded its work over the summer of 2017 with the completion of the Viability Plan, including 26 recommendation for the future viability of Berwyn.
  • Municipal Affairs hosted a community meeting on January 22, 2018 to review the viability plan, answer questions, and receive input & comments from stakeholders.
  • Municipal Affairs hosted a pre-vote community meeting on May 8, 2018 to provide an overview of the two options contained with the viability plan, and to answer questions that residents and property owners had.
  • A vote of electors on the question of the dissolution of the Village of Berwyn was conducted on May 15, 2018. Of 160 valid ballots cast, 129 (80.6%) voted for Berwyn to remain a village and 31 (19.4%) voted for dissolution.

Public Notices and Reports:

Village of Botha

Current Status:  Dissolution was recommended following a vote of village electors where 91% of voters voted to dissolve the village on May 15, 2017.The Village of Botha will be dissolved on September 1, 2017 and became a hamlet in the County of Stettler.

Past Activities:

  • Viability review was initiated in October 2015.
  • A Viability Review Team was formed in January 2016.
  • The Viability Review Team began meeting to determine the viability of the village.
  • An infrastructure audit was completed by the village (funded by Municipal Affairs).
  • A Viability Plan was developed based on information collected from the village and Stettler County. 
  • The Viability Plan was distributed to village residents and property owners in February. A special meeting of council was held on March 1, 2017 at the Botha Community Centre. At the meeting, village council resolved to request the Minister proceed to a vote on the viability options.
  • A public information session was held Thursday, May 4, 2017 from 6-8 pm at the Botha Community Centre.
  • A vote of the electors of the Village of Botha was held on Monday, May 15, 2017 at the Botha Community Centre.

Public Notices and Reports:

Village of Clyde

Current Status: The Minister reviewed the council decision and the recommendations from the Viability Review Team and issued directives to the municipality. The village is providing monthly reports to the Minister on the completion of the directives.

Past Activities: 

  • Viability review was initiated in January 2013.
  • A Viability Review Team was formed in May 2013.
  • An Initial Findings Report was published in October 2014 (see below).
  • A public meeting was held on October 23, 2014 at the Clyde and District Agricultural Society Community Hall.
  • A What We Have Heard and Viability Determination Report was published in January 2015 (see below).
  • The Viability Plan was published in March 2016.
  • Based on the options found in the Viability Plan, village council had voted to remain as a village at its May 16, 2016 meeting.
  • The Viability Review Team  has wound down and has concluded the viability review.

Public Notices and Reports:

Village of Cremona

Review Outcome: The Viability Review Team determined the Village of Cremona to be viable based on the implementation of the series of recommendations explained throughout the Viability Determination Report. The decision was not unanimous as some members of the Viability Review Team believed that the village faced significant viability challenges due to the state of the village's infrastructure and the estimated costs to address future infrastructure issues threaten the viability of the village.

Summary of Viability Review:

  • The viability review was initiated in October 2012.
  • The Viability Review Team was formed in October 2012.
  • An Initial Findings Report was published in April 2013.
  • An initial stakeholder survey was sent out to residents in April 2013.
  • A public meeting were held on May 22, 2013 at the Cremona School.
  • A What We Have Heard Report was published in August 2013.
  • Due to a loss of council quorum, the Minister of Municipal Affairs appointed an Official Administrator with the powers and duties of council on April 15, 2013 to November 4, 2013.
  • A viability determination was made on February 11, 2014.
  • The Viability Determination Report was published in April 2014.

Public Notices and Reports:

Village of Minburn

Review Outcome: The Village of Minburn was dissolved on July 1, 2015 and became a hamlet in the County of Minburn. The dissolution was recommended following a vote of village electors where 88% of voters voted to dissolve the village on March 12, 2015.

Summary of Viability Review:

  • The viability review was initiated in January 2013.
  • An initial stakeholder survey was sent out to residents in February 2013.
  • The Viability Review Team was formed in June 2013.
  • An Initial Findings Report was published in July 2014.
  • A public meeting were held on July 30, 2014 at the Minburn Ag Society Hall.
  • A What We Have Heard and Viability Determination Report was published in October 2014.
  • Village council voted in favour of dissolution of the village on February 10, 2015.
  • The Viability Plan was published in February 2015.
  • A vote of village electors was held on March 12, 2015.
  • Cabinet approved Order in Council 152/2015, which dissolved the Village of Minburn on July 1, 2015.

Public Notices and Reports:

Village of Rycroft

Current Status: A public information session will be held on May 7, 2018 at the Rycroft Community Hall.

Past Activities:

  • The viability review was initiated in April 2015.
  • The Viability Review Team was formed in May 2015.
  • A public meeting was held on November 19, 2015 at the Rycroft Community Hall.
  • The Viability Review Team has decided that information from an infrastructure audit is required prior to making a viability determination.
  • An infrastructure audit was initiated by the village in early 2016.
  • Facilitated discussions with the Village of Rycroft, Municipal District of Spirit River and Saddle Hills County were held.
  • Viability Review Team meetings were held February 23, 2017 and March 25, 2017 to discuss the draft viability report.
  • The Village of Rycroft Viability Plan was distributed to village residents.
  • A public meeting was held in the Rycroft Community Hall on December 14, 2017 to provide residents with an opportunity to discuss the viability plan, provide feedback to Municipal Affairs on the viability plan, and to learn the next steps in the viability review process.

Public Notices and Reports: On May 7, 2018, Municipal Affairs will host a public information session in the Rycroft Community Hall to discuss the viability plan and options, and to provide residents, property owners, and community stakeholders an opportunity to ask questions prior to the vote of village electors on May 16, 2018.

The Village of Rycroft Viability Plan can be viewed here.

Village of Willingdon

Current Status: Dissolution was recommended following a vote of village electors where 58% of voters voted to dissolve the village on January 26, 2017.The Village of Willingdon will be dissolved on September 1, 2017 and became a hamlet in the County of Two Hills. 

Past Activities:

  • The viability review was initiated in March 2015.
  • The Viability Review Team was formed in June 2015.
  • A public meeting was held on August 6, 2015 at the Willingdon Community Hall.
  • A viability determination was made on November 30, 2015.
  • An infrastructure audit was completed in March 2016.
  • The Viability Review Team met over summer 2016 to finalize the Viability Plan.
  • Viability Plan completed in October 2016.
  • Vote of Electors was held on January 26, 2017 at the Willingdon Seniors Centre.

Public Notices and Reports:

 

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Contact the Municipal Viability Team

If you have any questions about viability reviews or request a presentation for your council meeting on viability reviews, please call the Municipal Sustainability team toll-free in Alberta at 310-0000, then 780-427-2225, or via email at viabilityreview@gov.ab.ca

  • Date modified: 2018-08-09