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Province begins consultation on Local Authorities Election Act amendments

July 11, 2018

Alberta Municipal Affairs has launched a short engagement process on potential amendments to the Local Authorities Election Act aimed to bring rules for local elections closer in line with those for provincial elections. Municipalities are encouraged to review the positions AUMA members adopted at the 2016 AUMA Convention and provide their input to the province by July 31.

Municipalities are urged to highlight key issues such as the potential addition of “per donor, per year” limits of $4,000 dollars in total donations per person to all candidates, which will be very difficult to implement in local elections given the lack of a central body like a party that monitors all incoming contributions. This is also an ideal opportunity to promote innovative ideas raised by municipalities such as enabling electronic voting in local elections. An additional idea strongly supported by AUMA members is the creation of a tax credit for individual campaign donations, which would further bring the rules for local elections in line with provincial and federal elections.

A list of potential changes that align, conflict, or are outside the positions adopted by AUMA members is included below. You can also review the full AUMA analysis document.

Aligns with AUMA Positions

  • Requirement for self-funded candidates to disclose their campaign finances regardless of the amount of money funded.
  • Requirement for all candidates, including self-funded campaigns, to open a campaign bank account.
  • Requirement for all candidates to register with the municipality prior to accepting campaign contributions or spending campaign funds.
  • Establishment of rules on third-party advertising.
  • Alignment of definition of and dollar values and percentages for ticket sales considered to be a contribution at fundraising functions with provincial standards. (AUMA had advocated for a $100 exemption for anonymous contributions, but had also supported alignment with provincial standards. Provincial rules only allow anonymous contributions under $50.)
  • Allowance for an elector to vouch for another elector in place of identification.
  • Allowance for council to appoint a substitute returning officer rather than mayor/reeve.
  • Prohibition of campaign activities within a certain distance of voting stations. (Options were presented for 25m, 50m, 100m, and on surrounding properties. AUMA had advocated for a 100m restriction.)

Conflicts with AUMA Positions

  • Ban on all union and corporate donations. (AUMA supported a ban on union and corporate donations only if a tax credit will be provided for individual donations.)
  • Creation of “per donor, per year” contribution limit of $4,000 per person to all candidates combined. (Given the lack of central coordinated body like the party system in provincial elections, this change would be extremely difficult to implement in local elections. Previously, donations were allowed up to $5,000 to each candidate.)
  • Requirement for municipalities to set campaign limits. (AUMA had advocated for this to be enabled as an option for municipalities, not a requirement.)
  • Requirement for municipalities over 5,000 to hold an advance votes, and enabling option for municipalities under 5,000 to hold an advance vote. (AUMA had advocated for a requirement for municipalities over 1,000 to hold an advance vote.)

No AUMA Position

  • Requirement for municipalities to release a list of candidates immediately after the time limit for withdrawal of notifications has passed. (It is unclear what details will be developed regarding the length of time that “immediately” refers to and how municipalities would be required to “release” the list – e.g. online, via newspaper, posted in municipal building.)
  • Removal of requirement for municipalities to notify Municipal Affairs of special ballots and have “questionable ballots” reviewed by a provincial special ballot advisor.
  • Addition of authority for Returning Officer to accept or reject a special ballot. (The Returning Officer currently has authority over all ballots other than special ballots.)
  • Creation of contribution limits for fundraising functions.
  • Removal of requirement for to an elector reside in Alberta for six months before Election Day to be eligible to vote in elections under the LAEA. (This potential change aligns with changes to rules in provincial elections, which AUMA has generally been supportive of in principle.)
  • Addition of municipal authority to regulate the use of cell phones in voting stations. (Elections Canada prohibits the use of cell phones in a manner that jeopardizes privacy or causes disruption. There is no regulation regarding cell phones for provincial elections. The province of New Brunswick has passed similar regulations.)

Additional Comments

  • AUMA has strongly advocated for the creation of a tax credit for individual donations, which is not reflected in the potential changes.
  • AUMA has advocated for a delay in campaign financing and reporting rules coming into force until after the next election given that some candidates have already begun fundraising.
  • AUMA had provided a number of other suggestions that are not reflected in the potential changes including:
    • Enabling municipalities to utilize electronic voting.
    • Enabling municipalities to establish a bylaw addressing tie votes.
    • Broadening the criteria for institutional voting stations to include supportive living facilities based on the level of care rather than age.