Last month, AUMA asked the provincial government to respect the principles Alberta’s municipal leaders endorsed to safeguard fair and democratic local elections. We are deeply disappointed the government has chosen to proceed without incorporating our feedback for amendments to Bill 29: Local Authorities Election Amendment Act (LAEA) 2020.
This decision demonstrates a lack of respect for the role of municipal councils, our democratic mandate, and Alberta’s voters, resulting in the potential for profound negative consequences for democracy in Alberta’s communities.
To ensure a level playing field, we asked the government to make three simple changes to their amendments to the LAEA:
- Keep big money from manipulating local elections by setting contribution limits that are achievable and realistic for grassroots supporters.
- Allow municipalities to continue setting bylaws for candidates to disclose their full donor list and the amounts contributed before the municipal election date in 2021.
- Make third-party advertising accountable by outlining clear declarations of contributors and by limiting the contribution amounts.
The provincial government has outright rejected our first two requests and deferred a decision on the third item until a later date. Without these changes, there is now the strong potential to introduce big money and partisan politics to influence the upcoming 2021 municipal elections.
On numerous occasions, we met and communicated with Minister Madu, and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs in an effort to help them understand the importance of our feedback since legislative amendments must preserve the local, non-partisan, democratic processes that Albertans expect.
In the Municipal Affairs 2018-19 annual report, Minister Madu is quoted as saying, “Alberta’s success lies in the prosperity of its many vibrant municipalities. To fuel that prosperity, municipalities need a positive partnership with the provincial government and long-range planning to meet their community priorities.”
We consider the Ministry of Municipal Affairs’ role to include advancing and championing municipalities’ best interests. AUMA originally provided support to the provincial government’s announcement about changes to Bill 29 because we were assured by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs that they were willing to consider reasonable amendments to make local democracy more accountable. Better consultation is needed.
A real commitment by Municipal Affairs to collaborate with AUMA and its membership is the only way forward to rebuild the prosperity of our communities and our province.
Alberta Urban Municipalities Association