Measures proposed for fairer elections

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

Fairer elections for everyone!

It’s what the Alberta government hopes to attain after introducing Bill 29, the Local Authorities Election Amendment Act, which, if passed, will level the playing field for candidates and increase voter participation.

The proposed changes will help both challengers and incumbents, and provide a more democratic election for citizens, says the ruling UCP government.

“These changes are about leveling the playing field, so the best candidates for local office – regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum – are running and winning,” says Minister of Municipal Affairs Kaycee Madu.

The proposed changes came about after consultations with voters, community advocacy groups, elected officials, school board associations, municipalities and municipal associations.

Barry Morishita, president, Alberta Urban Municipalities Association applauds many of the proposed changes.

“AUMA and its members support many of these practical changes to the Local Authorities Election Act that enable fair, transparent elections. It is paramount that local elections remain local, and that amendments preserve the non-partisan, democratic processes that Albertans expect.”

AUMA is the group comprised of Alberta’s villages, towns and cities.

Al Kemmere is president, Rural Municipalities of Alberta, the group comprised of municipal district and counties.

“RMA looks forward to working with members to implement changes to the act in advance of the upcoming 2021 municipal election,” he says.

He adds the changes made in 2018 “didn’t do a lot to help newcomers.”

“As a previously unknown challenger who successfully defeated an incumbent by working extremely hard, I know first-hand how hard it is to break into local politics.”

Let’s level the playing field

Proposed amendments to the Local Authorities Election Amendment Act:

  • Campaign surpluses over $1,000 are donated to charity, instead of requiring municipalities and school boards to open trust accounts to hold them. It levels the playing field for new candidates who may not have previously raised funds.
  • Allows Albertans to support and donate to as many candidates as they choose, up to $5,000 per candidate, ensuring those without public name recognition have more flexibility to raise funds and get their message out.
  • Protects freedom of speech for third-party advertisers, like unions and corporations, by removing the definition of “political advertising” from the act – creating more open debates on issues and policies.
  • Allows candidates to self-finance up to $10,000 a year for their campaigns.
  • Increases the limit that potential candidates can raise outside of the campaign period from $2,000 to $5,000 annually, allowing candidates, particularly newcomers, to take steps to increase public awareness.
  • Candidates no longer have to file any disclosures before election day. It gives them more time on their main priority – running for office.
  • To increase transparency, candidates who receive contributions of $50,000 or who spend more than $50,000 will be required to have a chartered professional accountant review their financial statements before submitting them to the municipality or school board.

The electoral changes will be made as soon as possible to give municipalities and school boards time to prepare materials, candidate packages, municipal bylaws and procedures for the 2021 elections.

If passed, Bill 29 will take effect on Sept. 1.

Share this post