July 16th, 2024

Albertans being urged to fill out online surveys

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on November 21, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Alberta Municipalities wants to keep local elections free of political partisanship and it’s urging Albertans to fill out two online surveys that have been launched by the provincial government.

Those surveys will remain open until December 6 and can be found online at https://www.alberta.ca/local-elections-and-councillor-accountability-engagement

The surveys are on potential changes to the Local Authorities Elections Act and the Municipal Government Act.

During its annual conference in Edmonton which had representation from local governments across the province, ABMunis members supported overwhelmingly in favour of a resolution calling on the province to keep municipal elections local.

ABMunis was founded in 1905 and represents 265 of Alberta’s 334 municipalities – communities where more than 85 per cent of Albertans reside.

The organization works with elected officials and administrative leaders to advocate for solutions to common interests.

Andrew Knack, a director of the board of ABMunis, recently discussed the matter in an online meeting with provincial media.

Knack, a city councillor in Edmonton, said the organization wants Albertans to complete the surveys.

“This affects how politics is conducted at the local level throughout Alberta. We realize that many Albertans may be unfamiliar with these acts,” Knack said, ‘and we know they’re not often talked about on a day-to-day basis.

“Albertans usually only hear about these acts when municipal elections are conducted,” said Knack.

Those acts which he called “seemingly innocuous acts are vitally important to how local politics are practised in Alberta.

The LAEA provides the legislative framework for municipal and school board elections in Alberta. It pertains to municipalities of all sizes in all locations as well as school boards, Metis settlements and irrigation boards, he said.

“It looks at numerous potential changes including supporting the use of political parties in municipal government, advanced voting, making voters lists available to candidates, rules for postponement of local elections, ability to vouch for electors without government-issued identification, use of special ballots and use of runoff elections for the position of mayor reeve,” he said.

The MGA provides the legislative framework supporting councillor accountability once councils, reeves and mayors have been elected.

The MGA survey considers a variety of potential changes including mandating orientation training for councillors, expanding the ability for councils to meet in private, authority for the Minister of Municipal Affairs to remove a councillor, changes to the recall legislation, rules for councillors to disclose business interests or other personal history, rules for councillor for disqualification and clarified councillor conflicts of interest, Knack said.

“Our call to action relates to the last time the government of Alberta conducted similar surveys. It received about 4,000 responses and that’s actually a very low response rate” considering the population of Alberta was about 4.4 million, he said.

Knack said Municipal Affairs minister Rick McIver made clear he wanted to hear from Albertans, Knack noted.

The ABMunis board of directors agrees with McIver that Albertans need to have their say on strengthening democracy in Alberta, Knack said.

“We hope to spur more Albertans to take action” by completing the surveys, he said.

Knack said in response to a question ABMunis commissioned its own survey on keeping politics local and results showed 68 per cent of respondents preferred to see municipal candidates run as individuals.

Only 24 per cent indicated support for councillors running as members of a political party, Knack said, while more than 80 per cent agreed that municipal officials who are part of a political party would vote along party lines and not necessarily in the best interests of their community.

He noted that 69 per cent believed that political parties “would make municipal governments more divisive and less effective.”

Those results reflect the opinions stated by Albertans in other surveys, Knack said.

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