May 24th, 2024

Bill would grant Alberta powers to fire municipal councillors, postpone elections

By Lisa Johnson, The Canadian Press on April 25, 2024.

Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver and Alberta Premier Danielle Smith introduce legislation addressing agreements between the federal government and provincial entities in Edmonton on April 10, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON – The Alberta government has introduced a bill that would grant it sweeping powers over municipalities, including the right to fire councillors, overturn bylaws and postpone elections.

The proposed law would also allow political parties to run on municipal ballots in Edmonton and Calgary as soon as next year.

Municipal Affairs Minster Ric McIver says the new powers are justified to ensure fair elections and accountability from municipal leaders, and they would only be used as a last resort.

“My most fervent wish is that this authority is never ever used. We don’t want to intervene in municipal matters,” McIver told reporters before the bill was introduced in the legislature Thursday.

He said the criteria for removing councillors would be decided by Premier Danielle Smith’s cabinet on a case-by-case basis.

“I think the public would be most unforgiving of us if we make a decision to dismiss a duly elected councillor and don’t have a darn good reason,” McIver said.

The provincial government’s authority over local bylaws was previously limited to land-use and, more recently, public masking and vaccinations.

McIver said the province needs the bill to ensure municipalities are governing on affairs that are within their jurisdiction.

The bill makes other changes. It would ban the use of electronic voting tabulators, forcing municipalities to hand-count ballots, in order to better protect the integrity of the vote, said McIver.

“If we can reduce doubt in the public’s confidence about who is declared the winners, we think that rises above all other considerations.”

The move to political parties being allowed on municipal slates has been opposed by municipalities. But McIver said the goal is to strengthen trust in local government.

In the past, Smith has taken aim at the province’s two largest cities, saying in February that single-use plastic bylaws showed city councils had gone off the partisan rails.

“Because they’re getting far more political and far more ideological, there probably needs to be more transparency about that,” she said at the time.

Two weeks ago, Smith’s United Conservative Party government also introduced a bill that would give it the power to veto any deal between the federal government and provincial entities, including municipalities and post-secondary schools.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2024.

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