If passed, An Act to Strengthen and Protect Democracy in Alberta would help voters decide for themselves by limiting the influence of so-called political action committees (PACs) and third-party advertisers.
These changes are in line with the work that government has already done to make election financing more transparent, including the banning of corporate and union donations, the introduction of strict spending and donation limits and increased reporting and transparency measures for third parties.
“Albertans deserve to know who is trying to influence their elections. Over the past year, we’ve seen a significant rise in the number of third parties who are trying to bring dark money into Alberta politics. Albertans told us they wanted to see action on this issue, and we’ve done just that. Shining a light on this dark money will help ensure Albertans decide for themselves.”
~Christina Gray, Minister Responsible for Democratic Renewal
Stronger rules for third parties
If passed, new rules for third parties would include an additional spending limit for election advertising that starts on Dec. 1 prior to an election year and ends when the election is called:
- Limit of $150,000
- Of that $150,000, no more than $3,000 could be used to promote or oppose the election of one or more candidates in any one electoral division
Money spent by third parties on canvassing and organizing events to promote or oppose a party or candidate would count as advertising expenses and would be subject to the legislation.
The proposed act would also strengthen Alberta’s anti-collusion rules to explicitly ban collusion between third parties and political parties, candidates, nomination contestants and leadership contestants to circumvent spending or contribution rules.
The proposed act would also prevent third parties from spending money on certain political activities. Unless they are volunteers or individuals making an eligible political contribution, third parties would not be allowed to incur expenses to sell memberships, fundraise or collect information about voters in support of a party, candidate, nomination contestant or leadership contestant. This means that corporations, unions and persons not resident in Alberta would be banned from these activities.
Complaints and investigations
While helping to combat dark money politics, the act would also provide additional oversight and enforcement through the creation of a new Election Commissioner, who would have new enforcement tools. For example, the Election Commissioner would be able to apply for an injunction or enter into a compliance agreement with someone who has breached, or is likely to breach, the legislation.
The proposed Election Commissioner would be appointed on the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly and would be responsible for investigating alleged breaches of election legislation as well as recommending prosecutions.
Making voting easier
If passed, An Act to Strengthen and Protect Democracy in Alberta would bring the vote to more Albertans. To start, there would be one more advance voting day. Voters would be able to go to any advance poll instead of having to go to the poll in the area where they live. Voters would still choose a candidate running in the electoral division where they live.
Furthermore, mobile polls would be set up at some emergency shelters and support centres for those experiencing homelessness or poverty. Elections Alberta would also be able to set up mobile polls at post-secondary institutions, work camps, correctional institutions and other public buildings.
Canadian citizens who move to Alberta will no longer have to live in the province for six months before they are eligible to vote. And finally, people with disabilities would be able to vote with privacy and dignity using voter-assist terminals. These terminals allow voters to mark their ballot using a braille-coded keypad, audio cues or breath-operated devices.
Government advertising during an election
An Act to Strengthen and Protect Democracy in Alberta also proposes to restrict government advertising during the election period. Amendments would prohibit taxpayer money from being used to influence elections. Non-partisan advertisements and publications would still be allowed, including:
- those required by law
- those required for procurement or employment purposes
- important health or public safety messages
- continuing advertising about an ongoing program
For byelections, there would be restrictions on government advertising or publishing information that disproportionately impacts voters in the electoral division in which the byelection is taking place.