A piece of legislation proposed by the Government of Alberta will change the way municipal election's function and allow for the Province to remove elected town councillors.

On Thursday (April 25), Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver provided details on the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act (Bill 20) via live media conference.

The bill would amend the Local Authorities Election Act and the Municipal Government Act, bringing several changes to local election and municipal governments.

Among those changes is the long-rumoured introduction of parties to municipal elections.

If passed, the bill would enable political parties at a local level, with candidates able to join a political party and run under their banner, though that wouldn’t be a requirement for candidacy.

However, these municipal parties will only be enabled in Calgary and Edmonton for the time being as a pilot project.

McIver said the addition of parties into local elections would be in the interest of transparency.

“Over municipal election cycles, there have been plenty of examples in Alberta’s big cities of candidates organizing along party lines, and we are taking this step to enhance transparency for the voters of Calgary and Edmonton to allow candidates to show their party affiliation if they so choose, and to give Calgary and Edmonton voters, I think, a better sense of who they are voting for.”

These parties would not be affiliated with any provincial or federal party, explained McIver.

“Local political parties will be local. They will not have any formal affiliation with the provincial or federal political parties. There will be no sharing of funds or voters lists between federal or provincial parties and local parties. In other words, local government will remain local. Albertans will not see a municipal UCP party, for example, or a municipal NDP party, or a municipal Liberal party with any kind of direct connection to a provincial or federal party, or even be affiliated with a different name, it just won’t be allowed.”

The Province will be releasing more information on party registration in the next few months, with regulations expected to be in place by the time the next municipal elections occur in late 2025.

Political parties could be introduced province-wide at a later date, with McIver noting that “that will be determined after we see how it works this time.”

Campaign financing will also see changes, should the bill pass.

Unions and corporations will again be allowed to donate to candidates with a $5000 cap, and donations will be allowed outside the election year.

Candidates will have to report donation funding annually.

How Albertans vote would also be affected by Bill 20.

Electronic tabulators and voting machines would be eliminated, meaning votes would have to be counted manually. 

McIver told reporters at the conference that an indeterminate number of Albertans had expressed distrust in voting and tabulator machines, and that the decision to do away with them was made to ensure the public’s confidence in election results.

He also announced several powers the bill would grant the provincial government the ability to directly affect municipal governance.

Bill 20’s proposed amendments to the Municipal Government Act would allow the provincial Cabinet to require a municipality to amend or appeal a particular bylaw.

“We are doing this in order to protect the provincial interests by ensuring that municipalities are governing affairs that are within their jurisdiction,” explained McIver.

The Cabinet would also be permitted to remove a local councillor “if it’s clearly in the public interest to do so.”

When prompted to explain what would trigger the ejection of a councillor, McIver said it would operate on a case-by-case basis and reasoned that the public would hold the Cabinet responsible come voting season, should that power be misused.

He also stressed that these interventions are not to be used lightly.

“It is our intention that such interventions will only be considered at last resort. My most fervent wish is that this authority is never ever used. We don’t want to intervene in municipal matters, in fact, we always prefer for municipalities to be operating efficiently and within the parameters of the Municipal Government Act, but past experience has taught us this is not always the case.”

A media release from the Province states that Municipal Affairs will be engaging with municipalities over the next few months to gather feedback and shape regulations.

The announcement can be seen here.