Alberta banning electronic voting machines and allowing political parties in Edmonton and Calgary’s municipal elections

by staff

Through proposed changes to several legislative documents, the Government of Alberta will allow political parties on a pilot basis in the next Edmonton and Calgary municipal elections and plans to ban electronic voting machines and tabulation throughout the province. 

In what it terms “strengthening Alberta local elections,” the government announced the two measures on Thursday, stating it was to “ensure Albertans can rely on transparent, free and fair elections.”

The Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act proposes amendments to the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA) and the Municipal Government Act (MGA) to add what the UCP says is greater transparency to local election processes and ensure local councils and elected officials continue to remain accountable to those who elect them.

“Our government is committed to strengthening Albertans’ trust in their local governments and the democratic process that elects local leaders,” said Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver in a media release Thurasday. “The changes we are making increase transparency for Alberta voters and provide surety their votes will be counted accurately. We know how important local democracy is to Albertans, and we will work with local authorities to protect and enhance the integrity of local elections.”

Under the changes, Alberta will eliminate the use of electronic tabulators and other automated voting machines, requiring all ballots to be counted by hand. They also plan to clarify rules and streamline scrutineer processes, and expand the use of special ballots.

In a move that has received harsh criticism from Alberta Municipalities, amendments to the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act would allow political parties at the local level by way of a pilot project in Edmonton and Calgary. As McIver has stated to the media, candidates would not have to join a political party to run for a local or municipal office, but they can.

Proposed changes to the Local Authorities Election Act would allow municipalities to require criminal record checks for local candidates. The government says the move would increase transparency and trust in candidates whom electors might put in office.

Changes to the MGA will require mandatory orientation training for councillors, allow elected officials to recuse themselves for real or perceived conflicts of interest without third-party review, and require a councillor’s seat to become vacant upon disqualification.

The UCP also plans to exempt non-profit, subsidized affordable housing from both municipal and education property taxes, requiring municipalities to offer digital participation for public hearings about planning and development, and restrict municipalities from holding extra public hearings not already required by legislation.

Alberta NDP Critic for Municipal Affairs Kyle Kasawski said despite Danielle Smith and the UCP complaining “ad nauseum” about overreach into provincial jurisdiction, she insists on being “gatekeeper-in-chief.”

“Municipal councils from across Alberta have been very clear they do not want municipal political parties. They know best how to run their own affairs. What municipalities need are appropriate funds so that they can fix the crumbling infrastructure in their communities and to pay for the programs that Albertans deserve,” Kasawki said in a media release Thursday. “Citizens of municipalities elect local representatives to serve the best interests of their community, not because of what colour partisan flag they fly. Danielle Smith needs to realize that municipal councils are not a farm team for the UCP to carry out their wishes at the municipal level.”

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