Proposed municipal election regulations aim to change how contributions come to candidates.
Announced Nov. 5 by Municipal Affairs Minister Shaye Anderson, the Renew Local Democracy in Alberta act is designed to update rules surrounding elections at the municipal level along with those for school boards, Métis settlements and irrigation districts.
Among the new rules are bans on corporate and union donations, actual enforcement and prosecution of rule breaking, a $4,000 contribution limit and full donor disclosure by all candidates. Communities with more than 5,000 people would also be mandated to provide advance polls and more poll locations.
For Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett, passage of the proposed rules will make it more difficult for smaller municipal councils to attract candidates to run.
“In my opinion, it’s going to make it hard to get candidates to run. It’s one thing to do this for the bigger cities where there is a lot more spending being done on their elections,” he stated.
“But, all it does for us is make more bureaucratic paperwork. We are not looking for a big salary or a full time job. We are just trying help do good things for our communities.”
Bonnett noted even local elections see candidates incurring some costs, which means raising some funds for a post that is a sideline to someone’s regular job.
“They are putting rules in place meant to deal with people looking for jobs paying $80,000 to $100,000, on us, and will make it harder to find candidates,” he added.
“Toss in the fact that come Jan. 1, all salaries for mayors and councillors will lose the one-third tax exemption and make it even harder to attract people.”
Municipal Affairs minister Shaye Anderson stated in a press release, “We heard from Albertans that elections should be decided by people, not by money. Our government made provincial elections fairer and more transparent, and now we are committed to doing the same on the municipal level.”
Lacombe-Ponoka UCP MLA Ron Orr agreed with Bonnett on the possibility of deterring people from running, though wasn’t totally against the bill.
“Bill 23 provides a framework for local elections that the municipalities have been asking for. It leaves the administration of local elections with local authorities but gives them guidance,” he stated.
“We are concerned that the labyrinth of new compliance rules and reporting will deter some good people from running. I think the bill should have extended the ability to write tax deductible receipts for municipal elections as in provincial and federal ones.”
“However, while the bill will restrict the fundraising and spending of candidates, it leaves the door wide open for big money to go to political action committees.”