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Alberta Municipalities say there is no room for party politics at the local level

Leaders from towns and cities across the province have voted 94 per cent in favour of keeping provincial party politics out of municipal elections, and will be asking the province to make changes to their elections act.

The president of Alberta Municipalities says there is no place for party politics at the municipal level. She want to stop the provincial government from introducing partisan politics in local government elections.

“In Minister McIver’s Mandate Letter it does talk about the local authorities election act a review of it and when I asked him about party politics at the local level he did confirm that, so it’s going to be a topic of conversation in Alberta for the next little while,” said Cathy Heron, outgoing Alberta Municipalities president.

A resolution to essentially ban party politics at the municipal level was brought forward by the town of Brooks, with Heron asking members to send a clear message by voting to keep partisanship away from civic elections.

It passed Thursday with 94 per cent voting got keep local candidates independent. Additionally, 80 per cent wanting to see the province’s election act changed to prohibit partisan donations and endorsements.

“I think there are advantages to being non-partisan at the local level. That allows the councillor or mayor to walk into their chambers every week to make decisions and walk in with an open mind,” said Heron.

According to a recent poll by Janet Brown, the vote matches the view of Albertans, with 68 per cent of respondents saying that there is no place for official party affiliations.

“You’ve got to be very cautious in a place like Alberta about bringing in party politics when local constituents want representation at the local level without interference or the complexities that surround party politics,” explained Lori Williams, a political expert at Mount Royal University.

Williams says it’s something municipalities have resisted, and says when you look at cities like Vancouver and Montreal, bringing in those provincial affiliations doesn’t have an impact on the number of people casting their ballots.

“We’ve seen repeatedly parties try to install themselves in municipal elections an the electorate has resisted that precisely because they want better representation and they see parties at the local level getting in the way of that,” Williams explained.

“Obviously parties do have organizations to get out the vote, to campaign and all of that, but again at the local level we tend to see that candidate connection being more important than the party connection and quite often, informally parties do try to get out the vote to support a candidate that they like.”

Williams says turnout doesn’t just depend on people getting people out to poling stations, she says it depends on what the issues are.

“The voter turnout is going to depend on the competitiveness of the election, the issues that a re in contention. In other words if people think their vote is going to make a difference, that’s what’s going to get them out to vote, much more than any party organization would do.”

Williams says what people care about most are local issues and they want an open discuss that aren’t forced by ideological or party affiliations.

“You’ve got to be very cautious in a place like Alberta about bringing in party politics when local constituents want representation at the local level without interference or the complexities that surround party politics.

“There are lots of municipalities that vote in the majority for the United Conservative Party, but are very different in terms of who they vote for at the local level because what matters at the local level is the issues and the discussion and the representation.”

As for the government, a spokesperson for Alberta municipal affairs tells CityNews they “review local election laws regularly to make sure the rules continue to support fair and transparent elections.

Municipal leaders additionally voted 98 per cent in favour of following through on asking the provincial government to increase infrastructure spending. A clear message from Heron and municipal leaders that they need to add to the pot and keep their provincial politics out of the municipal cookie jar.

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