ED KAISER / Postmedia, file
Individual donations during a municipal campaignare currently capped at $4,000 total that can either be given wholly to one candidate or distributed among several candidates throughout the province. The upcoming 2021 elections would be the first campaign with that cap in place. If passed, Bill 29 would amend the Local Authorities Election Act to revert the donation rule back to what it was during the 2017 local elections.
“The changes we are seeking to make are about levelling the playing field so that the best candidates for the job, regardless of where they stand on the political spectrum, are running and winning,” he said. “These changes will allow political newcomers to run more meaningful campaigns. This will help lead to more competitive local elections and increase voter participation.”
Disclosing donations publicly would also no longer be required prior to the election so candidates don’t get bogged down with this administrative work while campaigning, Madu said.
It is also being proposed that those who receive funds or spend more than $50,000 would be required to have an accountant review their financial statements before submitting them. Under the current rules, municipalities can pass a bylaw requiring pre-election disclosure statements on the funding raised by all candidates. Transparency isn’t a concern, Madu said, because the same information would be publicly available after the election.
The proposed reforms also plan to give more power to third-party advertisers by eliminating regulations outside of the election period from May 1 in the election year to the close of the polls in October. Outside of that time, third-party advertisers would be allowed to act as they please, which Madu said is a change to increase their freedom of speech.
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said the involvement of third-party advertising makes him concerned that the focus of a campaign could be shifted away from local issues. Iveson said he was briefed by Madu Tuesday on what to expect in the proposed amendments and that a number of city council’s suggestions and feedback were included.
Responding to the bill, Opposition NDP municipal affairs critic Joe Ceci condemned the proposed amendments, arguing they would bring “dark money” into politics and reduce transparency for voters.
“This bill means that the rich can buy the council they want,” he said. “I think it is disgraceful.”
If passed, the bill would come into effect on Sept. 1. These changes would also impact school board trustee elections.