The 256-member Alberta Municipalities (ABmunis) is encouraging residents to take two provincial government online surveys aimed at garnering input into local elections and councillors accountability.
Launched Nov. 7, the surveys are seeking responses from the public and stakeholders on the Local Authorities Elections Act (LAEA) and the Municipal Government Act (MGA).
The LAEA survey asks for input on whether electoral ballots at the local level should be amended to allow political parties to be listed by municipal candidates.
“These two acts are vitally important to how local politics are practised in communities across the province,” ABmunis director and City of Edmonton councillor Andrew Knack said at a press conference Thursday.
“Completing one or two online surveys may seem like a small thing, but it can lead to significant outcomes. It takes about 10 minutes or so to complete one of these surveys. To some extent, the future of municipal government in Alberta will be shaped by these results on these online surveys.”
He said a recent ABmunis survey found that 68 per cent of respondents indicated they would prefer to see municipal candidates run as individuals.
“Only 24 per cent indicated that they would like to see candidates run as members of political parties. 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 interest of the community.”
At its recent convention, ABmunis members passed a resolution calling for the maintenance of non-partisan municipal elections in the province.
“For our municipalities to remain efficient, effective and accountable, it is critical that we leave no room for partisan politics,” the resolution states.
“This is critical in local government and plays a big part in why local government is the most accountable and efficient form of government.”
During Thursday’s press conference, Knack said, “I think the survey results, as long as many people actually fill them out, which is why we are doing this today, would come to the same conclusion that we’ve seen in our survey and numerous surveys before that.”
During the press conference, Trina Jones, mayor of Legal and ABmunis board member said, “We believe that we are the people at the elected level that best represent the people and we don’t believe party politics has a place in that, as we believe we should be independent.”
In launching the surveys on Nov. 7, Minister of Municipal Affairs Rick McIver said input gathered will “build on feedback collected in 2021 and 2022 regarding local elections and councillor accountability.
“I encourage all eligible Albertans to complete these surveys and have their say on how we can strengthen local democracy in Alberta.”
The LAEA survey asks questions related to how local elections are conducted, including advanced voting, voter eligibility, and the involvement of political parties at the local level.
Questions in that survey include: “Could there be any issues or challenges with listing political parties on the electoral ballot for local elections?”
The MGA survey asks questions on topics related to the accountability and transparency of locally elected officials, including disqualification rules, monetary conflict of interest, disclosure of information and requiring training for councillors.
In a press release issued following Thursday’s press conference, ABmunis officials said many of its members are “concerned that the introduction of political parties to local elections could lead to greater divisiveness within municipal governments.
“Others worry that a growing number of Albertans could be ineligible to vote in local elections because they lack home addresses or government-issued identification.”
Both surveys are available on the government’s website at Alberta.ca.