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Grande Prairie councillor continues push to keep large donors out of local elections

Grande Prairie City Councillor Dylan Bressey is cautiously optimistic that new Minister of Municipal Affairs and Grande Prairie MLA Tracy Allard will claw back changes made to the local elections act. The amended legislation changed the donation cap from $4,000 across the board in an election period, to now allow residents to spend upwards of $5,000 per candidate of their choosing, and for as many candidates as they desire.

“In Grande Prairie, it costs around $5,000 to run a competitive campaign, and under the new rules, a single, secret donor could fund multiple candidates, and that’s incredibly disturbing to me,” Bressey explains.

He argues the idea that one person could theoretically have power over a number of potential councillors isn’t right.

“No one resident in Grande Prairie should have a say over council than any other, and you shouldn’t get a bigger say because you shoveled a whole bunch of money into local elections.”

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Bressey adds that while the changes don’t necessarily create a more open partisan divide at the local level, he believes they could open the door to lobbyist groups to have a greater say, regardless of which side of the political aisle they stand.

“If you need a lot more money to run, that means partisan networks become more valuable,” he says. “I don’t think you have to be partisan to run, but I think having partisan connections becomes a lot more enticing to candidates if money becomes a lot more important.”

Bressey says additions to ballots are also a concern, suggesting that the information that would be needed to make informed decisions at a provincial and federal level through the addition of referendums could take away from local issues. Recently, when speaking to mygrandeprairienow.com, Allard said that she believes the voter is sophisticated and the government has a responsibility to help the voters understand the issues, both local and the referendum.

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