Big Lakes County taxpayer will not pay to attend political fundraisers

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Big Lakes County council members who want to attend political fundraising events will have to pay out of their own pocket.

At its regular meeting May 10, council confirmed council’s political fundraisers policy to comply with the Municipal Government Act (MGA) and other legislation for municipalities.

Reviewing the policy at its regular meeting April 26, council tabled the item for legal review and comment.

County administration received legal advice about council’s request to determine if council can pay or reimburse council members’ costs associated with attending a federal or provincial political fundraising event.

CAO Jerry Gautreau wrote in a report the County could pay for travel expenses for council members to attend a fundraising or campaign event according to the County’s lawyers.

“It’s a slippery slope,” Gautreau said.

“We could pay for travel expenses.”

As a result, council reviewed the policy and made no changes.

“My recommendation is to keep the policy as is,” Gautreau said.

The policy confirms that no contributions to a registered party, constituency association, candidate, nomination contestant, registered leadership contestant or registered candidate shall be made other than by a person ordinarily resident in Alberta.

Reeve Robert Nygaard said locally-elected officials can pay their own travel expenses for candidate or party fundraisers in provincial and federal elections, not the County.

“It’s better to talk to people in power”, those who are elected to government, Nygaard said.

Two other councillors agreed the County should not pay for any expenses.

“For fundraisers, we should not pay,” High Prairie East – Banana Belt Councillor Tyler Airth said.

Grouard Councillor Jeff Chalifoux agreed.

“If they’re not elected, we shouldn’t pay for the campaign,” Chalifoux said.

Statements from the County’s lawyer were included in the report.

The lawyer “asked an associate to review the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act (EFCDA) and the limited case law and have concluded that while council members will have to pay for their own tickets personally (as per s. 1(1)(E) of the EFCDA), the County can pay for the associated expenses (ie. travel expenses) as long as such payments are consistent with County policy”.

“Based on Flach vs. Newell, 2011 ABQB 409, the Court seems willing to defer to municipal policies as long as they are not directly in conflict with existing legislation in the MGA or the EFCDA.

“Since the EFCDA expressly prohibits a municipality from making any direct or indirect contributions to any of the parties set out under s. 1(1)(e), council members should personally pay for their own tickets or other items where the funds will directly go to the political party/candidate in question, but the county can pay for travel fees or other similar associated expenses pursuant to county policy.”

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