A new bill passed by the Alberta government will pressure oil and gas companies into paying hundreds of millions of dollars in property taxes to municipalities.
Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said on Thursday his proposed legislation may not recoup all of the estimated $245 million owed to 69 rural municipalities (RMs). But he says it's a start.
"This is a hammer," McIver told reporters. "Among the vast majority of responsible oil and gas companies that pay their bills, there's some bad actors that are refusing to. And the hammer is required."
The "hammer" he's referring to is the Municipal Government (Restoring Tax Accountability) Amendment Act, tabled in the legislature Thursday.
This bill, when passed, will allow municipalities to place a special lien on both owners and operators of oil and gas companies that owe taxes.
It would apply to land housing both pipelines and equipment, such as tanks and separators.
McIver added that it gives companies 120 days to pay up before the municipality can seize any of their property within its borders.
"The idea is not to spur a bunch of legal action, but rather, to spur people to pay their taxes in the first place," McIver said.
According to the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, the amount of money owed to municipalities has ballooned in recent years. The amount owed had tripled to $245 million in 2021 from $81 million in 2019. Most oil and gas companies that owe money (60 per cent) remain in business.