As part of the updated Municipal Government Act (MGA), Intermunicipal Collaboration Frameworks (ICFs) are required for municipalities that share a border.

An Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework is a tool to facilitate cooperation between neighbouring municipalities to ensure municipal services are provided to residents efficiently and cost effectively.

Through collaborative discussion, the County of Grande Prairie has successfully completed all required ICFs:

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an Intermunicipal Collaboration Framework (ICF)?

An ICF is a tool to facilitate cooperation between neighbouring municipalities to ensure municipal services are provided to residents efficiently and cost effectively.
Why did the City and County have to complete an ICF?
The modernized Municipal Government Act (MGA) requires bordering municipalities to develop an ICF to facilitate and encourage cooperation and cost sharing ensuring efficient services are provided to residents.
How many ICFs does the County need to have? Are they all complete?
Through collaboration, the County has now successfully completed all seven of the required ICFs. These include the M.D. of Greenview, Birch Hills County, Saddle Hills County, Town of Beaverlodge, Town of Sexsmith, Town of Wembley, and, now, the City of Grande Prairie.
 What process was used to negotiate the ICF?

In 2019 the City and County started working towards the development of the ICF. This work was conducted through the facilitated and mediated processes. While many areas of further collaboration to support the region were identified, differing views on the sharing of municipal costs delayed a final resolution.

ICF mediated discussions between the County and the City of Grande Prairie stopped when, in November 2020, City Council officially notified the County that it had decided to end mediation and refer the development of the ICF to an arbitrator.

Arbitration was not the County’s preferred approach as the County did not believe it was a good use of taxpayer dollars, and, considering our current economic climate, could be better invested elsewhere. While mediation is more cost effective, builds relationships and encourages dialogue, the County trusted in the arbitration process set out in the MGA to ensure an objective and fact-based resolution to the dispute.

The City and County were unable to come to an understanding on interpretation of the previously developed Revenue Sharing Agreement. The arbitrator ruled that the revenue sharing funding is for fostering regional development and is not related to cost sharing for services as pertains to ICF. Subsequent to this ruling, the municipalities negotiated the new cost sharing and information sharing agreement with the help of respective legal counsels. Both municipalities approved the ICF on February 7, 2022. The ICF lists and provides a high-level overview of all agreements and initiatives between the two municipalities. The ICF also outlines the framework for ongoing collaborative work between the municipalities.

 What is the difference between mediation and arbitration?

A mediator helps parties negotiate a settlement that satisfies all parties. A mediator facilitates and does not make decisions.

An arbitrator functions more like a judge, deciding an outcome based on evidence and law presented by all parties. Arbitration is binding and the outcome can be enforced like a court order.

In the City and County’s case, the arbitrator ruled on the revenue sharing interpretation. The municipalities subsequently agreed on the cost sharing component, which is the new funding. This funding represents a net contribution from the County to the City for the services accessed by residents in both municipalities.

 How did the County pay for mediation and arbitration?

Both municipalities received funding through the Alberta Community Partnership Grant that covered the cost of facilitation and mediation. The additional costs associated with administrative costs (such as staffing and elected officials time, etc.) were funded through the general operating budget.

The Province does not provide funding for the arbitration process. The costs to arbitrate were cost shared between the County and the City utilizing one of the allowable methods described in the ICF regulation. County funding from general taxation covered this expense.

 What was the arbitrator’s ruling? How do you feel about the arbitrator’s ruling?

The arbitrator was asked to look at one item that the County and City were not able to come to agreement on. The County’s opinion was that the Revenue Sharing Agreement should be considered when calculating cost sharing contributions for the Cost Sharing Agreement. The City disagreed saying that they were separate agreements for different reasons.

The arbitrator ruled that the Revenue Sharing Agreement was not a part of cost sharing contributions for general services and has the purpose of fostering regional development. The arbitrator’s ruling is final.

The County recognizes the reciprocal benefit City and County citizens receive from both municipalities’ services and amenities, however, we are disappointed that the Revenue Sharing Agreement was not considered as part of the calculation for the cost sharing contributions.

Following the arbitrator’s ruling, the County and City negotiated the compensation for the cost sharing contributions based on the information we had available. We look forward to the collection of user data over the next few years so we are able to more accurately calculate the cost sharing calculation.

 What is the Cost Sharing and Information Sharing Agreement?

The agreement lays out the recognition that the County and the City each provide and support various services accessible to residents residing in both municipalities. In balancing out the cost of these services provided by the City and those provided by the County, the agreement notes compensation of $1.5 million dollars for four years from the County to the City. These payments are retroactive to April 1, 2021.

The agreement also includes the recognition that there is a lack of service usage data in order to make effective decisions. The Intercollaboration Framework Committee will oversee the collection of user data for both City and County services to ensure accurate information for future negotiations.

As a result of the lack of service usage data, the agreement states that the County contribution amount is a negotiated solution and that data is needed for a longer-term agreement. The current agreement will expire on March 31, 2025 with a new negotiated agreement starting on April 1, 2025.

 What is the Revenue Sharing Agreement?
The 2004 Revenue Sharing Agreement, which replaced an older agreement, was established when the municipalities entered into the Aquatera partnership. At the time, the County’s understanding was that the agreement was meant to compensate the City for any additional costs that the City may experience due to the growth outside of its boundaries. The County received shares in Aquatera and access to water and wastewater service connections within the County and the County pays the City 10 per cent of municipal property taxes generated by new non-residential developments serviced by Aquatera. In 2021, this amount was $1.22 million.
What is the Intercollaboration Framework Committee? Will the municipalities provide regular updates on the progress of the Committee’s work?

The ICF includes the establishment of an Intermunicipal Collaboration Committee comprised of members from each Council. The first priority of the Committee is to ensure the collection of usage and cost data to inform a future Cost Sharing and Information Sharing Agreement, which will start on April 1, 2025.

Overall, the Committee will address and develop future service agreements and/or cost sharing arrangements; facilitate an effective working relationship between the municipalities; encourage and establish early engagement and proactive communications; provide a forum for discussion, consensus building and making recommendations to respective Councils; and address intermunicipal disputes.

The Committee meetings will be conducted according to MGA, meaning that the meetings will be public. The exception is where the MGA allows for meetings to be held behind closed doors in certain circumstances under Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP). The minutes of the meetings will be publicly available.

As there is no usage data available for services, how did the City and County determine that $1.5 million per year is the correct amount of compensation?

The County and the City exchanged and reviewed various data related to costs of providing services during the facilitated and mediated phases of this process. The County and the City also looked at the limited usage data available for some facilities and services and reviewed the methods of delivery of various services in both municipalities. For example, the County utilises an indirect method of service delivery by supporting and providing financial assistance to non-profit groups to deliver a variety of services to its residents. The City utilises the direct method by hiring employees and managing many services and facilities internally.

The municipalities also reviewed various methods other municipalities utilise to determine cost sharing amounts. For example, some municipalities use population data instead of usage data.

Individually, the municipalities took into consideration these various components when negotiating the $1.5 million per year compensation for this four-year agreement.

Where will the County find the budget to pay the $1.5 million per year to the City? Will taxes increase to cover the new compensation to the City?
This will be determined during budget deliberations. An increase in taxation will be avoided as much as possible; however, it may be considered as an option to cover the compensation to the City.
Does the City financially compensate the County for City residents accessing County services?
The agreement related to cost sharing for services recognizes that both the County and City provide and support various services accessible to residents residing in both municipalities. In balancing out the costs of these services, the County will provide the City with $1.5 million in compensation per year for four years.
Does the arbitrators ruling and Cost Sharing Agreement confirm the City’s claims that County residents were not paying for City services they were using?
The County has always recognized the reciprocal benefit City and County citizens receive from both municipalities’ services and amenities. The collection of user data will provide more detail on resident usage in both municipalities.
How does the City use the compensation paid by the County in relation to the Revenue Sharing Agreement?
This is a question best directed towards the City.
 What agreements are included in the ICF between the City and County?

The County and the City have had various agreements in the past, however the Municipal Government Act (MGA) mandate for the development of the ICFs has created a more transparent process for the development and review of these agreements. This process emphasizes continued inter-municipal collaboration and increases accountability, transparency and accessibility.

There are 11 agreements included in the ICF:

  • Cost Sharing and Information Sharing Agreement: outlines the terms the City and County have agreed upon to ensure various City and County services remain equally accessible to residents in both municipalities. This agreement also represents the net compensation to be provided by the County to the City for various services accessible to residents in both the City and the County.
  • Fire Services Mutual Aid: enables both municipalities to make fire service requests of the other municipality. The agreement also introduces an auto-aid component where the closest station will respond to a call regardless of which jurisdiction that call falls within in select, predetermined areas. Encourages development of cooperative procedures and protocols to enhance the fire departments.
  • Geographical Information Systems (GIS): processes for integration of publicly accessible datasets.
  • Grande Prairie Regional Emergency Partnership (GPREP): regional emergency partnership for emergency planning, preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery.
  • Labour Force Survey: partner with Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce and others to create a Labour Force Study.
  • Procurement: joint procurement, where feasible, and collaborate and share process, best practices and knowledge.
  • Quasi-Judicial Board Members: share board members as needed and collaborate on board member training.
  • Safety Codes Training: hold joint training sessions for tradespeople and builders when new codes are introduced.
  • Training and Development: collaborate on employee training opportunities.
  • Signal Light Pre-emption: County emergency vehicles and traffic signals will be outfitted with equipment allowing them to connect to the City’s pre-emption system. This allows County emergency vehicles to more quickly travel through City and County signalled intersections reducing response times.
  • Traffic Light Maintenance: the City’s maintenance of traffic lights at County’s signalled intersections.
In what other ways is the County supporting services and programs in the City of Grande Prairie?

The County has always recognized the reciprocal benefit City and County citizens receive from both municipalities’ services and amenities.

Besides the Revenue Sharing Agreement and now the Cost Sharing Agreement, the County supports the Grande Prairie Public Library and The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie through annual funding requests. In 2021, this was $302,509 and $75,000 respectively and in 2022, $311,585 and $75,000 respectively.

The County also funds many local groups and organizations whose work supports the region. In 2020, these groups received $6.1 million. In 2021, the County contributed $6 million in grants to various groups and organizations.

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