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.

The County of Grande Prairie has successfully completed ICFs with the following municipalities through collaborative discussions:

Municipal District of Greenview No. 16

Birch Hills County

Saddle Hills County

Town of Beaverlodge

• Town of Sexsmith 

Town of Wembley

Village of Hythe 

The ICF between the County and the Village of Hythe has been deferred by the Province until completion of Hythe’s viability review.

City of Grande Prairie

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 is not the County’s preferred approach as the County does not believe it is 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 also has trust in the arbitration process set out in the MGA to ensure an objective and fact-based resolution to the dispute.

For more details about the City and County ICF, please see the Frequently Asked Questions below.

The Conflict Resolution Spectrum shows the benefits and lower cost of mediation compared to the drawbacks and higher cost of arbitration.

Conflict resolution spectrum

Frequently Asked Questions

What are ICFs?

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

Due to amendments to the Municipal Government Act, ICFs are required by April 1, 2021 between all municipalities that share a common boundary. Arbitration applies to municipalities that are unable to create or review the framework by the April 1 deadline.

What is the status of the County’s ICFs with its neighbours?

Through collaboration, the County has successfully completed six of our required eight ICFs. These include the M.D. of Greenview, Birch Hills County, Saddle Hills County, Town of Beaverlodge, Town of Sexsmith, and Town of Wembley.

The ICF between the County and the Village of Hythe has been deferred by the Province until completion of Hythe’s viability review.

ICF discussions between the County and the City of Grande Prairie stopped when, on November 4, City Council officially notified the County that it had decided to end mediation and refer the development of the ICF to an arbitrator. On January 8, 2021, the City publicly stated that it wished to move forward with voluntary arbitration. 

What is the County’s position on ICF negotiations between the County and City?

The County maintains that mediation is the best path forward to complete the ICF. Mediation is better for taxpayers and the region. It is well understood that mediation is preferable to arbitration: It’s more cost effective, builds relations, is less risky, and results in a decision by locals – not one imposed by a third-party arbitrator.

We believe a service delivery framework that best serves the City and County should be built by people who live and work in our communities. It should be one created by local government with the needs of our citizens in mind.

Conflict Resolution Spectrum

The Conflict Resolution Spectrum shows the benefits and lower cost of mediation compared to the drawbacks and higher cost of arbitration.

conflict resolution spectrum

What is the County’s position on voluntary and mandatory arbitration?
Arbitration of any kind is not the best use of taxpayer dollars. This is especially true considering our economic reality and the challenges of COVID-19 when these dollars and resources could be invested elsewhere. In addition, any time a decision is left to a third party (arbitration) there is risk and uncertainty of outcome. The County does not believe that incorporating this level of risk into decision-making about the future of our community is a responsible approach. 
Is there time before the April 1 deadline to resolve outstanding issues?

County Council believes that both Councils have the capacity to come together to craft solutions to outstanding issues – and that it’s important to residents in both municipalities that we make this effort. The County has presented the City with options we feel are very feasible and attainable alternatives to arbitration, and offer very workable solutions to outstanding issues.

Throughout the process, the County acted – and will continue to act – in good faith in all discussions with the City. We are prepared to come to an agreement that is fair to County and City citizens alike, recognizing give and take is required by both municipalities.

The City wishes to proceed immediately to voluntary arbitration. What is the County’s position?
From the County’s perspective, continuing with mediation is the best option. If the City and County were to continue developing the ICF through mediation, meeting the Province’s April 1, 2021 deadline for ICF completion may be achievable. County Council believes that both Councils have the capacity to come together to craft solutions to any outstanding issues – and that it’s important to residents in both municipalities that we make this effort. The County has presented the City with very feasible and attainable alternatives to arbitration and offered very workable solutions to outstanding issues.
  • Voluntary arbitration may be successful if all items for dispute can be identified upon prior to commencement of arbitration.
  • The County maintains that neither voluntary nor mandatory arbitration best serve our communities as the decisions for our region will be made by an arbitrator.  With the City’s decision to arbitrate, we do not have a willing partner to continue the mediation, and the City does not have a willing partner to proceed to voluntary arbitration. This means the mandatory arbitration process as described in MGA and applicable regulations will commence in due course. 
What happens if the City and County are unable to complete the ICF through mediation?

While the County maintains that neither voluntary nor mandatory arbitration best serve our communities, should we be required to proceed to arbitration, we have trust in the mandatory arbitration process set out in the MGA to ensure an objective and fact-based resolution to the dispute. 

When did the first ICF meeting between the City and the County take place?
According to County records, the first official meeting took place on April 18, 2019. Both municipalities conducted some internal preliminary work independently in preparation to the negotiations since the ICF requirement was first introduced. 
How are the municipalities funding the ICF process?
Both municipalities received funding through the Alberta Community Partnership Grant that covered the cost of facilitations and mediators to date. The additional costs associated with administrative costs (such as staff and the elected officials time, etc.) have been and will continue to be funded through the general operating budgets. 
Will the Province provide funding for the arbitration process?
The Province will not provide funding for the arbitration process. The costs to arbitrate will be cost shared between the County and the City utilizing one of the methods described in the ICF regulation. County funding from general taxation will cover additional expenses.
Does the County currently contribute to the public programs and services provided or offered in the City?

The County has always recognized the reciprocal benefit City and County citizens receive from both municipalities’ services and amenities. The County provides annual funding to the City for the use of services through a revenue sharing agreement. In 2020, this amount was $1.27 million.

Additionally, the County annually funds many local groups and organizations whose work supports the region. In 2020, these groups received $6.1 million.  In 2021, the County will contribute $6 million in grants to various groups and organizations.

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