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Alberta plans to change rules for how public agencies own, sell assets

Alberta Infrastructure Minister Pete Guthrie speaks to reporters about the province's Real Property Governance Act, introduced Thursday. (Peter Evans/CBC - image credit)
Alberta Infrastructure Minister Pete Guthrie speaks to reporters about the province's Real Property Governance Act, introduced Thursday. (Peter Evans/CBC - image credit)

Alberta is changing the system for how publicly funded agencies — including school boards, universities and health-care providers — can own and sell property.

If passed, Bill 13, the Real Property Governance Act, would require provincial agencies, boards and commissions to give the province first right of refusal when they're selling surplus land and buildings.

The proposed change affects Alberta's post-secondary institutions, school jurisdictions and charter schools, Alberta Health Services and numerous government organizations including the Alberta Social Housing Corporation, among others.

It's a call back to the 2019 blue ribbon panel led by former Saskatchewan finance minister Janice MacKinnon that made recommendations for sweeping changes to Alberta government finances.

One of the MacKinnon panel recommendations was to "redefine" government land assets to include the broader public sector. The panel suggested setting policy to deal with surplus land and buildings could offset other capital costs or provide more revenue for the province.

Infrastructure Minister Pete Guthrie said Thursday the province's goal is to make it easier to understand the full inventory of government-owned property, and more readily convert available real estate to "priority" uses — for example, affordable housing or addictions recovery centres.

The province currently transfers land to public agencies that run services such as hospitals or public schools.

Guthrie said the government will move to a new system where it retains ownership and instead leases property to organizations.

The government estimates that public agencies, boards and commissions hold $83 billion in assets, while the infrastructure ministry owns just $12 billion.

"That kind of gives you an idea of … the transferring away of assets that we do not hold as having availability to and access to as the government of Alberta."

Guthrie said for post-secondary institutions, anything held within their land trusts would not be included in the new system.

More to come.