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Danielle Smith says she won’t repeal Calgary’s rezoning bylaw in the wake of Bill 20

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she won’t intervene with the controversial rezoning bylaw passed by Calgary city council earlier this week, even in light of a new bill that would give the provincial government more power over municipalities.

In an interview with the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday, when asked whether her government plans to step in, Smith said the province won’t be repealing Calgary’s blanket rezoning.

“I won’t. That is up to Calgarians to decide if they’re upset,” she said.

“Calgary has an election coming up in 18 months. It’ll be up to Calgarians to decide whether or not they believe their council made the right decision.”

Smith’s comments come after the Alberta legislature introduced Bill 20, the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act, at the end of April. If passed, the bill would give the provincial cabinet the power to overturn bylaws, plus fire mayors and city councillors. 

It’s just one of three newly proposed bills centred around how much autonomy the province gives municipalities.

Calgary Eyeopener9:36Premier Smith on bills 18, 20 and 21

The provincial government has been accused of orchestrating a power grab from municipalities through recent proposed laws. Premier Danielle Smith responds to this criticism.

Smith’s comments also come after Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said it could be hard to predict what the UCP government may do in response to the city’s rezoning.

“If a municipality steps outside of its jurisdiction and tries to pass a bylaw that is actually provincial jurisdiction, then they can repeal it. This [bylaw] is fully within the mandate of what we are elected to do,  so I would have a hard time understanding how they could repeal this,” said Gondek in an interview with CBC News on Wednesday.

“But again, they’re the provincial government. We are the child in this parent-child relationship, so things don’t surprise me when they come from this government.”

Calgary city council passed the rezoning bylaw on Tuesday, following the largest-ever public hearing and longest-ever meeting in council’s history.

16-day city council meeting on rezoning

The original proposal to blanket rezone was just one piece of the city’s 98-item housing strategy approved by council last year, but it’s been the most high-profile and contentious piece of the plan. 

The bylaw outlines that residential areas zoned for only single or semi-detached homes be rezoned to allow for townhomes and row houses.

Over the course of 16 days in total — many of which ran for 12 hours — council heard from 736 speakers during the public hearing, of which 458 were opposed to changing the land-use bylaw.

During the meeting, more than 20 amendments were made to the bylaw, many spurred by what council heard from Calgarians throughout the public hearing, according to Gondek.

But Smith said she feels the federal government overstepped when it comes to rezoning in Calgary by offering related funding to the municipality. She added that the provincial government’s newly proposed legislation will address such “bilateral deals.”

“The thing I am concerned about in Calgary is it seems to me that they’ve made this blanket zoning change because it’s a requirement of the federal government,” said the premier.

“There’s been reporting that one of the conditions of that is that they have to do this massive zoning change. Now, I think that that’s an interference to municipal jurisdiction.”

two photos side by side dhow two groups of people.
Rallies both in support of and against the city’s blanket rezoning proposal are seen in these file photos. (Anne-Marie Trickey/CBC, Mike Symington/CBC)

Near the end of last year, the federal government announced that it would give $228 million to Calgary over a four-year period for the construction of 6,800 new homes as part of the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), a federal government initiative to address the housing crisis.

In Septmember 2023, after receiving a letter from federal Housing Minister Sean Fraser, Gondek expressed concerns on social media that the federal government wouldn’t fund the city’s housing strategy unless its zoning laws were changed.

Whether or not federal funding would be affected has been a key component of the rezoning debate, but during the council meeting, city administration said the federal money wouldn’t be contingent on rezoning.

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