The government has introduced Bill 29, the Local Authorities Election Amendment Act, which, if passed, will level the playing field for candidates and increase voter participation.
The previous government updated the act in 2018 – but failed to address many critical gaps. The proposed changes will address those gaps, such as creating a level playing field for challengers and incumbents and more democratic elections for voters and citizens.
The proposed changes were informed by an extensive consultation process with voters, community advocacy groups, elected officials, school board associations, municipalities and municipal associations.
“The next round of local elections will be critical for the future of Alberta. These changes are about levelling the playing field, so the best candidates for local office – regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum – are running and winning.”Kaycee Madu, Minister of Municipal Affairs
“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.”Barry Morishita, president, Alberta Urban Municipalities Association
“It is crucial that municipal elections focus on local issues and provide a level playing field for all candidates. The Local Authorities Election Act continues to be an important tool in supporting local democracy and strong municipal governance. RMA looks forward to working with members to implement changes to the act in advance of the upcoming 2021 municipal election.”Al Kemmere, president, Rural Municipalities of Alberta
“This legislation was updated in 2018, but those changes 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. These changes create hope and opportunity for all those seeking to represent their communities.”Jon Dziadyk, Ward 3 councillor, City of Edmonton
“Local leadership matters. These common-sense improvements will help level the playing field and remove barriers to entry. We need a diverse field of candidates to step forward to offer their leadership through our many present challenges. By reducing advantages for incumbents, and increasing financial oversight over large campaigns, Albertans will have more tools and better opportunity to hold their elected officials accountable. Alberta is set to have races that celebrate our full diversity and allow for the most competitive local elections in the country.”Jeromy Farkas, Ward 11 councillor, City of Calgary
Some of the proposed amendments to municipal and school board elections include:
- Ensuring campaign surpluses over $1,000 are donated to charity, instead of requiring municipalities and school boards to open trust accounts to hold them – levelling the playing field for new candidates who may not have previously raised funds.
- Allowing 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.
- Protecting 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.
- Allowing candidates to self-finance up to $10,000 a year for their campaigns.
- Increasing 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 earlier.
- Making it so candidates do not have to file any disclosures before election day, meaning they can spend their 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.
- A surplus of less than $1,000 may be kept by the candidate and used at their discretion.
- 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.