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Alberta introduces legislation to allow municipal political parties in Calgary, Edmonton


The Alberta government has tabled legislation to bring sweeping changes to municipal elections and the powers the province has over its cities and towns.

Bill 20, if passed, would introduce optional political parties to Calgary and Edmonton's municipal elections, ban the use of electronic tabulators and provide a mechanism for the provincial cabinet to remove municipal councillors if it is deemed "in the public interest."

The Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act would also allow cabinet to order a municipality to amend or repeal a bylaw.

The proposed changes to both the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA) and Municipal Government Act (MGA) allow for more transparency and accountability measures, the minister said.

"Through this legislation, we are ensuring the local elected officials and councils are accountable to the Albertans who elect them and make decisions that are clearly in Alberta's interests and reflect the transparency and fairness that the citizens of Alberta deserve," said Ric McIver, Alberta's minister of municipal affairs.

The legislation, which was tabled on Thursday afternoon, also brings in more financial reporting rules and limits for union and corporate donations and Third-Party Advertisers (TPAs) at the municipal level.


Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek spoke with reporters on Thursday following the announcement of the legislation, citing concerns about the ability of cabinet to order a municipality to amend or repeal bylaws, donations from unions and corporations and the removal of councillors.

“So are we now in a world where elections can be bought by big money and they can then be overturned by a cabinet that doesn’t like the results,” Gondek said.

“The provincial government claims that this is intended to ensure that local elections are transparent, that they’re fair and they’re free, but I’m left asking why they’ve inserted themselves into municipal government in a manner that actually strips the voting public’s right to elect the council that they believe is the best to serve them.”

Gondek called this bill, and others recently tabled by the province, “overreach.”

“If the people that are in provincial government right now are interested in doing the work of the municipal government, perhaps they should have run for these positions,” she said.

The mayor highlighted some positives from the legislation, including criminal record checks being required for municipal candidates, the minister of municipal affairs taking on the validation of recall petitions and fully exempting housing providers from property taxes.

Political parties at the municipal level

The province is calling the introduction of political parties or slates in Calgary and Edmonton a pilot project it will test for the October 2025 election.

"Party official affiliation at the local level is something that happens already, particularly in the bigger cities," McIver said.

"When I was elected as a member of Calgary city council, for example, I was very open about my own preference for conservative politics identified that way, and I wasn't the only one."

The legislation states it will be optional for candidates to join a municipal political party and local parties will not be permitted to be funded or organized by federal or provincial parties.

Alberta Municipalities, the group representing hundreds of cities, towns and villages across the province, was adamant in its opposition to introducing political parties at the local level.

The mayors of both Edmonton and Calgary also came out in opposition to the changes, as have some other members of council.

"Is this really just a matter of the province trying to institute some type of control over municipal elections, because they really can't handle the fact that municipal councils tend to be independent?" said Courtney Walcott, the councillor for Ward 8 in Calgary.

Other councillors, however, support political parties at a local level.

"I think what the province is trying to do is formalize what already exists," said Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean.

"Last election, we had an entity that was well-funded, well-organized, union-endorsed endorsed and promoted a slate of candidates," he added.

'Accountability of local councils'

Bill 20 would give the provincial cabinet the ability to remove a mayor or councillors or call a referendum to determine whether an elected official should be removed if deemed appropriate. Under the MGA currently, the minister is only allowed to remove councillors through a municipal inspection process.

The legislative changes would give ministers the power to remove councillors if it is deemed to be in the public interest, though there is not a clear definition of what that would be, and the minister says removal would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

"And I'll tell you what, I believe the most important and legitimate guardrail is, is that the announcement will have to be made publicly and the public, both directly and through the media will say, 'How did you come to this deliberation?'" McIver said Thursday.

The proposed legislation would also allow cabinet ministers to require municipalities to amend any bylaws, something currently only allowed for land use bylaws or statutory plans.

Another amendment to the MGA would put the minister of municipal affairs in charge of validating municipal recall petitions, something currently under the responsibility of a municipality's chief administrative officer.

Election changes

The Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act would also prohibit municipalities from using electronic vote tabulators during elections, something the City of Calgary used in the 2021 municipal election.

"I will neither vouch for (electronic tabulators) nor say anything bad about them, but the fact is, there are some Albertans that don't like the idea of machines counting their ballots," explained McIver.

The bill also outlines changes to fundraising and financial reporting ahead of local elections. Unions and corporations would be permitted to donate up to $5,000 to local candidates per year and TPAs will have the same annual donation limit and will be required to register and report all finances.

In a statement, the City of Calgary says officials will review Bill 20 to determine the changes that need to be made to its election procedures.

"This may include required amendments to the Election Bylaw (Bylaw 35M2018). Administration will inform council about the legislative changes," reads the statement in part.

The province says it will conduct consultation with municipalities over the coming months to develop detailed rules on all of the proposed changes, including political parties at the local level. Top Stories

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