While the Local Authorities Election Act was reviewed and revised following local elections in 2017, the current government has received feedback suggesting gaps exist in the legislation.
Voters, elected officials, community advocacy groups and campaign volunteers are being asked to take an online survey, which will help determine how the rules can be improved to enhance transparency and participation in local elections, according to the provincial government.
Municipal Affairs Press Secretary Timothy Gerwing told the Journal it’s normal for governments to review and update election legislation.
“This consultation is being done in response to concerns our department continues to receive about the existing legislation that was brought in by the NDP in 2018,” Gerwing said. “The feedback we receive through our survey, combined with the feedback we receive through our stakeholder meetings, will determine whether or not changes are needed.”
Albertans can provide feedback online at Alberta.ca until March 4 regarding the length of campaign period, nomination process, campaign finances, third-party advertising and recall of municipally elected officials.
According to County of St. Paul Reeve Steve Upham, the survey is a good opportunity for Albertans to express their opinion on how they feel the municipal government election process works.
Upham, who is in his third term, has seen his term go from three to four years. Upham has been in public service close to 10 years.
“We’re always open to change if it’s warranted . . . suggestions merit change,” he said. “And I think there is some need for people to see transparency, especially in elections where there are bigger municipalities and where more money is used for campaigning . . . to see how those campaigns are undertaken and see how that money is managed.”
In smaller municipalities, it’s not so much of an issue because very few go out and raise money to campaign, he explained.
“We basically take money out of our own pockets and run our own campaigns,” Upham said. The reeve also recognizes that this could be a barrier for others interested in running.
“The $100 nomination fee is just a start,” he said.
In 2018, limits on self-funded campaigns were set at $5,000 for council positions and $10,000 for mayor or reeve, according to the government. The act also determines candidate-spending limits by consulting with stakeholders. Limits would be based partially on the size of the municipality and school board.
Upham said he is also not one to go out and ask people to give him money. “I believe that if I’m intent and passionate about running, I need to step up and put money up front to fund that campaign.”
While the municipal election process works fairly well, an electronic voters list would be a vast improvement, he added.
The Local Authorities Election Act governs elections for cities, towns, villages, summer villages, municipal districts, counties, specialized municipalities and school boards.
The next municipal election is set for October 2021.