June 22nd, 2024

More signatures to be needed in next election

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on March 9, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Candidates hoping to earn a seat on city council in future elections will have to do a little more leg work.

City council on Tuesday by a 5-4 vote passed a motion proposed by Deputy Mayor Ryan Parker that will require hopefuls to acquire more signatures before submitting nomination papers.

Prospective council candidates will now have to obtain 50 signatures while those running for mayor will be required to garner 100.

The motion was passed after council debated a proposal by councillor Nick Paladino which also called for having candidates put down a deposit.

This was seen by some on council as being a deterrent to the democratic process, the argument made being that finances shouldn’t prevent qualified candidates for seeking election.

Acting mayor Jenn Schmidt-Rempel, while speaking in support of Parker’s motion pointed out that municipal candidates only have to seek five signatures while the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College require 10 and 15 respectively for candidates running for student union positions.

Schmidt-Rempel added that obtaining 50 signatures is a way of becoming more engaged with the public.

Parker called his resolution “a resolution of compromise” and noted that a person who hopes to earn a council seat will have to garner about 5,000 votes at the ballot box.

Councillor Jeff Carlson, who voted against the proposal, expressed concerns about dissuading people from becoming engaged in the democratic process.

“We should be focused on encouraging people to become more involved in the democratic process,” added Carlson.

He pointed out to his colleagues that for any of them to acquire 50 votes is easy due to their extensive social circles but that could be problematic for a newcomer to the city.

“If it discourages one credible candidate, I won’t support it,” said Carlson.

Councillor Belinda Crowson also expressed opposition, saying the motion won’t do “what people think it’s going to do.”

The matter was first brought to council’s attention on Dec. 13 by Paladino who in a motion stated that in the 2021 election there were 33 candidates running for council and six for mayor. That motion said such a large number of candidates is overwhelming to electors “resulting in considerable time to review all the candidates information as well as a significant number of campaign signs in the community.”

It added that organizers of candidates forums find difficulty in allotting time for such a large number of candidates.

The Local Authorities Election Act allows municipalities with populations over 10,000 to request a deposit up to $1,000 to accompany nominations. In 2021, Lethbridge had 81,276 eligible electors, the motion stated.

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