Some of the recent questions and concerns related to the establishment of Legacy MLC, accompanied by Lac Ste. Anne County's responses, are listed below.
On May 1, 2019, a Public Hearing was held in Council Chambers concerning the establishment of a Municipally Controlled Corporation (Legacy MLC); a move that would begin the process to develop a new facility for Onoway Regional Medical Clinic, and that would provide property development and facility management services for community-focused projects that may present significant benefit to regional communities, but where the economic benefit of these projects is not great enough to attract private investment.
At the start of the Public Hearing, Lac Ste. Anne County Assistant County Manager Robert Osmond presented a synopsis of the initiative, followed by a set of responses to public questions that had arisen leading up to the hearing date.
Following Mr. Osmond’s presentations, members of the public were given roughly five minutes each before Council to speak both in favour of and against this contemplated initiative. Public comments, questions and concerns were also voiced across various channels prior to and following the May 1 Public Hearings.
One of the most resonant pubic critiques has been that there are too many unanswered questions to make an informed decision regarding this important initiative before Council. Accordingly, the County has curated the questions and concerns raised to date, and has written a response to each item below. This information will also be cross-posted to the Onoway Regional Medical Clinic website, and will be amended as any substantive developments warrant.
Why wasn’t clarification about Legacy MLC provided before the public hearing?
Clarifications and in-depth analysis, prepared by County Administration on all issues, are presented to County Council prior to public communication. The business plan for the Legacy Municipal Land Corporation Municipally Controlled Corporation was published to the Lac Ste. Anne County (www.LSAC.ca) and Legacy MLC (www.legacymunicipal.ca) websites on April 1, 2019, following its presentation to Council on March 28, 2019. Advertisements in the Lac Ste. Anne Bulletin and posts on social media and the websites attempted to draw as much attention as possible to this business plan. The business plan is a nine-page document and included information about the purpose, governance, financial strategy, risk analysis and the process being observed in the formation of the Legacy Municipal Land Corporation Municipally Controlled Corporation.
Why did Community Peace Officers restrict access to transfer station sites by those gathering signatures on petitions?
The County respects the public’s petition rights provided in the Municipal Government Act, and as such has allowed those collecting signatures on petition to use public gathering sites such as County transfer stations for this purpose. However, as a public facility, access to and from these sites by ratepayers cannot be restricted, and petition signature gatherers are expected to accept the decision of those who don’t wish to participate. During the weeks when petitioners were gathering signatures, they attended many transfer stations in the County; users were given space to access the facility; and decisions to sign or not were respected. There was, however, a single day when the County received a number of complaints from a single transfer station regarding petitioners impeding access to the transfer station bins, petitioners standing behind vehicles to prevent them from leaving, and petitioner(s) who would not respect the decisions of those visiting the facility. These complaints were forwarded to enforcement, and Community Peace Officers attended the site. The petitioners were asked to back up from the bins, and were reminded that they were not to impede access to the site or otherwise harass those declining to sign the petition. The petitioners followed the direction of the Community Peace Officers and there was no need for further enforcement. No further complaints were received.
How much will the Board Members and the Executive Director be paid?
The Lac Ste. Anne County Councillors that sit on the Legacy MLC Board will not collect any additional compensation for fulfilling this role. Councillors receive compensation for the many commitments they attend as a Councillor. The Executive Director, who will coordinate meetings and advise the Board, will receive no additional compensation and will complete these minimal tasks within their current role and compensation. Any additional administrative services, financial management, banking, et cetera, are the responsibility of Legacy MLC, and the cost of these services is budgeted. Currently, these services are planned to be contracted from the County, and Legacy MLC will pay for those services. In the event that the County is unable to provide these additional administrative services due to staff availability, Legacy MLC could, once incorporated, purchase these services from a third party.
Where do the profits go?
The future profits of Legacy MLC will be reinvested into future local projects and to provide contingent operating funds to ensure the financial independence of the Corporation. Should the County decide to conclude the operations of the Corporation, all the assets and accumulated profits would be returned to the single shareholder: Lac Ste. Anne County.
What influence would the public have over an incorporated Legacy MLC?
After incorporation, as a municipally controlled corporation the ratepayers will have influence over Legacy MLC in that the elected officials on the Board and the Council that appointed them to the role are elected. As such, the public will have an electoral authority over those elected positions. Also, although as an incorporated entity the business decisions of Legacy MLC will be their own, any request for assistance or support from the County would provide all the public oversight opportunities of other Council decisions.
Why is the County looking to incorporate Legacy MLC?
Following in the footsteps of other municipalities such as the City of Edmonton, City of Calgary, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, the Town of Drumheller and the City of Airdrie, Lac Ste. Anne County is seeking to establish a land development and property management municipally controlled corporation. The corporation will provide Council with a tool to address development priorities that are otherwise ignored by private development companies. The incorporated status ensures that the development activities are performed by a legally separate entity, in a financially independent environment from the County and its municipal activities.
How can Legacy MLC be financially independent addressing projects private developers would ignore?
When a private developer evaluates a project, they work to ensure that the return on their investment is maximized. This practice means they will always select projects with the greatest financial returns. A municipally controlled corporation has the flexibility to recognize benefits beyond the simple financial return. Although Legacy MLC will never select a project with no financial return (a project on which it would lose money), it could select a project with minimal financial returns and significant social benefits for the community.
Couldn’t the County use tax incentives for the same economic benefit?
There are many communities that use, or have used, tax incentives to secure development in their communities. Unfortunately, economic development incentives are often not crucial to where firms locate, as municipal property taxes are rarely a significant portion of operating expenses. With many municipalities competing for businesses by providing incentives, much of the benefit is lost in competing to try to top each other’s offers (The Realities of Economic Development Subsidies, Andrew Schwartz).
Instead of creating Legacy MLC, couldn’t the County simply loan building funds to the Onoway Regional Medical Clinic?
The purpose of the Onoway Regional Medical Clinic Corporation is to manage the Medical Clinic, which provides important physician services in the region. Lac Ste. Anne County and its municipal partners in the Onoway Regional Medical Clinic (the Town of Onoway and the Summer Villages of Ross Haven, West Cove, Silver Sands and Val Quentin), believe that the additional of obligations of building ownership and management would limit the possibility that the Clinic could be sold to a physician or medical clinic operator.
What are the future projects being considered for Legacy MLC?
Beyond the initial project to build a medical office facility for the Onoway Regional Medical Clinic Corporation, no other projects have been specifically identified. The Legacy MLC Corporation will provide Council will a tool to address development priorities that are otherwise ignored by private development companies. As these priorities are identified, additional projects will then be investigated. Ultimately, projects may be identified as financially practical that include daycare facilities; seniors and low-income housing; commercial/industrial land development; recreation or community facilities; and/or internet and telecommunications projects. The possibilities for advancement within our communities will only be limited by the limits of entrepreneurial innovation.
Why wasn’t a market impact analysis completed for Legacy MLC?
The purpose of a market impact analysis is to review the impact of adding an additional competitor or additional services into a competitive market. In the case of the Legacy MLC, the planned corporation is not competing with existing property developers on projects that provide opportunities to maximize investment. The municipally controlled corporation will be participating in projects with minimal financial returns (too low to attract private participation) and significant social benefits for the community.
What obligations would the Legacy MLC MCC place on taxpayers?
Legacy Municipal Land Corporation (Legacy MLC) is borrowing money from the County with which it will build a valuable community resource and generate sufficient revenues via payments from ORMC to repay the loan and develop a reserve for future projects. The most significant risk that exists is in the event that the County (as the controlling partner in ORMC) decides to remove support from the Clinic and shut the facility down. Such a decision would be against the self-interests of the County and Council, given the County’s nearly ten years of supporting the Clinic with a subsidy, and the new facility investment.
Where would the new Clinic be located?
The new Clinic facility will be located within the Town of Onoway; however, the exact location has not yet been finalized.