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Commentary: ​​​​​​​Battles on many fronts

The UCP finds itself in new dispute

As if the bitter fight with Alberta's physicians and a storm of protest over its plans to reopen schools in the fall isn't enough, the Jason Kenney UCP government is now facing a new political battle with municipal governments.

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) said last week that the government’s decision to move forward with the Local Authorities Election Amendment Act (Bill 29) without taking the association’s suggested changes into account amounts to an attack on local democracy.

Under the legislation, several changes to the election process are being made, including related to campaign contribution limits, third-party advertising, and nomination periods.

For their part, both Premier Jason Kenney and Municipal Affairs Minister said Kaycee Madu have said the new legislation as proposed is both reasonable and needed.

The AUMA represents towns and cities across the province, including in this region.

The association said the government has rejected its suggestions that municipalities be allowed to set bylaws for candidates to disclose their full donor lists and amounts contributed before the municipal election date in 2021, and that the government set contribution levels that are “achievable and realistic for grassroots supporters” at the municipal level.

The government deferred a decision on a third suggestion that would make third-party advertising accountable by outlining clear declarations of contributors and by limiting the contribution amounts.

“Without these changes, there is now the strong potential for big money and partisan politics to influence the upcoming 2021 municipal elections,” AUMA officials said.

Whether Albertans who voted in last year’s provincial election a little more than a year ago could have predicted that things would have ever reached the current level of discourse remains an open question.

What is known is that it has been many, many years since an Alberta provincial government has been involved in so many bitter and contentious battles with vital stakeholders on key issues.

Anyone care to predict whether things will start looking up or continue to tumble downward in the days and weeks to come?

Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.