Last week, the Government of Alberta announced amendments to the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act, 2024 (Bill 20).

The bill has been controversial since before it was formally announced, with rumours of the planned introduction of political parties into local elections swirling prior to its unveiling by Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver in late April.

Bill 20 was immediately met with backlash from municipal leaders, including the mayors of Okotoks and High River.

Concerns were voiced regarding several aspects of the bill, including the fact that it would allow the provincial Cabinet to remove elected town councillors and require bylaws to be repealed or amended.

Those two elements were just amended on May 23.

Under the amended Bill 20, the provincial Cabinet would be allowed to order a vote where electors would decide if a councillor should be removed, rather than Cabinet removing them outright.

The amended bill also partially outlines the circumstances where that would happen:

"An elector vote to remove a councillor is limited to councillors who Cabinet consider to be unwilling, unable, or refusing to do the job for which they were elected, or if Cabinet considers such a vote to be in the public interest by taking into consideration illegal or unethical behaviour by a councillor."

What qualifies as being in the "public" interest has yet to be defined.

Regarding the Cabinet's ability to require bylaws to be removed or changed, newly amended Bill 20 provides some examples of when that decision would be made:

"The bylaw exceeds the scope of the MGA or otherwise exceeds the authority granted to a municipality under the MGA or any other statute, conflicts with the MGA or any other statute, is contrary to provincial policy, or contravenes the Constitution of Canada."

Alberta Municipalities, a group that represents 85 per cent of towns, villages, cities, and other municipalities according to their website, responded to the amendments soon after they were tabled.

The group's statement said they were dissapointed to see Bill 20 moving ahead.

They took issue with the fact that several aspects of the bill weren't amended, including the introduction of parties into municipal elections, reintroducing corporate and union donations, and disallowing electronic voting machines and tabulators.

Alberta Municipalities also expressed disappointment in the amendments that were made.

"The proposed amendments to Bill 20 did not move the needle on these issues. We are disappointed with the level of provincial government consultation with Albertans, with municipalities and with municipal associations. None of the many solutions we shared with the provincial government over the past few months are reflected in these amendments," the statement partially reads.

They're calling for more engagement with representatives from Alberta Municipalities from Minister McIver.

The amended Bill 20 can be seen here.