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Discussions continuing around M.D. tax recovery lands

Posted on June 3, 2021 by Vauxhall Advance
By Cole Parkinson
Vauxhall Advance

As the Municipal District of Taber continues to explore ways of gaining back their tax recovery land, discussions are finally moving forward after the COVID-19 pandemic delayed them by several months.

With meetings set up in the next several weeks, the M.D. is hopeful they’ll see a return of all of their land which totals “tens of thousands of acres.”

“I had a good discussion with Minister (Grant) Hunter the other day on this. He’s looking forward to continuing to help us move this file along,” explained Reeve Merrill Harris at M.D. council’s regular meeting on May 25. 

“One other question Minister Hunter asked me was if we had a legal opinion on our case and trying to get this land back. There was a letter from Brownlee (LLP), I believe, outlining numerous key points and the reason we should be getting this land back.”

M.D. administration also explained they’ve been doing plenty of research around the tax recovery lands.

“We’re doing a little more research and a little bit more information assembling. Once we get that together, we will share that all with council,” added CAO Arlos Crofts. 

While Albertan municipalities have been dealing with this issue for several years, a question was posed if this was happening in other provinces as well.

“I’m just wondering how other prairie provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba have managed this same issues. Is it similar to Alberta in that is there tax recovery land that remains in the province’s hands that used to with municipalities? Or is it this exclusive to Alberta?” asked Coun. John Turcato.

“I can’t speak with extreme certainty but I know Saskatchewan does deal with it a certain way. There have definitely been articles published to that effect and we’ll try to incorporate that stuff into the discussion,” replied Crofts.

As a councillor and a former reeve  who has been dealing with this issue for several years, Brian Brewin detailed what the process has been for the municipality.

“A lot of this land was dealt with 15 years ago when they got the initial request. The M.D. had decided, because we had such a large quantity of it, that we weren’t prepared to take it over all at once. So we gave them an additional 10 years and that’s kind of where the changes came in is in that 10-year period. Most of this has been long since dealt with through the municipality. Most of them only had a quarter or two. There were a couple of municipalities, and the M.D. being one that there was a significant portion,” he explained. 

“That’s where the changes seem to come from — that initial letter that said it was all coming back to that 10-year plan where they started taking back some as sensitive. Had we taken the offer up to begin with, this would have been a non-issue, but it was just too much for us. We didn’t have anybody hired to take this on. We felt it was too big of an endeavour to take.” 

Turcato also asked about other municipalities dealing with tax recovery lands.

“Are we one of the only remaining municipalities with tax recovery land to come back or are there other rural municipalities in the same situation?” 

“When we were making a bit of headway, that was the last discussions with the province, they did say this is a bigger issue, not just with the M.D. of Taber,” replied Brian Peers, director of municipal lands and leases. “There would have to be consultation with a bunch of different groups including municipalities where this has occurred with them as well. I think we’re by far the biggest, but there are other rural municipalities out there that have similar lands in that state.” 

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