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Opinion: Elections must be fair

New legislation raises questions

The recent introduction by the UCP government of the Local Authorities Election Amendment Act raises questions about the future of elections in this province.

And while only time will tell if the changes will negatively impact municipal and school board elections, what is certain is that Albertans are right to insist that whatever changes are made do not give anyone or any group an unfair advantage in the vital democratic process.

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

For example, the legislation would allow third-party advertisers to spend up to $500,000 on an issue, up markedly from the current limit of $150,000.

Both the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) say they will be examining the proposed changes and will be making their views publicly known.

At the same time, both associations have already come out with statements of principles they say are vital to the election process.

Representing cities, town and villages, the AUMA says municipal elections must see candidates elected to represent and be accountable to municipal residents and not to political parties, that election rules and processes must be easy to access and understand, and that voters must have access to interim disclosure statements from candidates and third-party advertisers before elections.

Representing rural municipalities, the RMA says that all candidates should have comparable opportunities to participate in an election, including through campaigning and participating in the nomination process.

Premier Jason Kenney says the proposed changes are both reasonable and needed.

NDP municipal affairs critic Joe Ceci says, “It’s clear to me that Jason Kenney is trying to buy local elections and put the people in place he believes will be beholden to him and his government’s ideas.”

Generations of Albertans have made great sacrifices to ensure that elections in this province are fair and transparent — and residents will rightly insist that that remains the case going forward.

- Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan