Grande Prairie Mayor Bill Given says he is concerned with some of the details in the recently tabled Bill 29, which he believes could allow big money back into municipal elections.
Currently, no Albertan is allowed to donate more than $4,000 across the board in an election period, but the proposed changes to the legislation would allow residents to spend upwards of $5,000 per candidate of their choosing, and for as many candidates as they desire.
“The proposed changes in Bill 29 appears to remove that limit allowing wealthier contributors to have more influence in local elections across the province,” Given says.
Given says his major concern is those donors could choose to support certain kinds of candidates across Alberta and could lead to partisanship.
“When certain donors decide to back certain kinds of candidates in a coordinated fashion across the province, that looks, smells, and acts very much like a political party.”
The province says the former NDP government failed to address many critical gaps in the Local Authorities Election Act when they made changes in 2018, and believe 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 next round of local elections will be critical for the future of Alberta,” says Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu. “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.”
Given says the province has shown an interest in a collaborative approach with local governments thus far and hopes to continue that process with any issues municipalities may have with Bill 29.
“If they truly do want the best for residents and are looking to work closely with local governments, my hope is they’d be open to hearing feedback to these proposed changes and amending this legislation before it is passed.”
The bill also proposes removing the requirement for candidates to disclose their donors prior to election day. It still bans candidate donations from corporations and unions.