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Some municipal politicians in Alberta fear partisan bent will be introduced into election campaigns

Frustration at meeting of Alberta’s urban municipalities
WATCH ABOVE: Frustration. That's the overwhelming sentiment at a meeting of Alberta's urban municipalities. They say the province's cuts have put huge pressures on their local governments. Sarah Ryan has more.

Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu confirmed at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) President’s Summit in Edmonton that the provincial government is considering changes with regard to how municipal elections are run.

Those changes that could potentially be legislated this spring could affect contribution limits, rules on donations and third-party advertising while opening the door to more partisan politics.

Madu admitted changes are being looked at, however, he shot down any notion that what you see at the provincial or federal level will soon be coming to campaigns for municipal elections.

“Our government has no intention to introduce partisan politics into municipal elections,” he told reporters at the conclusion of the summit. “If there are areas of electoral laws that needs to be looked into, I think it’s reasonable to expect that we would.”

“I guess it was helpful to hear the minister confirm that that’s being looked at,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said after listening to Madu’s news conference.

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“That’s the first time I’ve heard officially that that’s coming. That’s a concern.

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“This is consistent with a pattern of us finding out about things when they’re already in progress rather than being asked for input on the front end.”

READ MORE: Iveson hopeful about fiscal relationship with province after meeting with municipal affairs minister

It also means Iveson and others will have to speak up through official channels.

“The minister said it’s being contemplated right now, and if it’s being contemplated right now, I would expect that AUMA, City of Edmonton, City of Calgary and our rural colleagues would be consulted about that as people who have an active stake in the health of our local democracies.”

New rules for municipal elections in Alberta?
New rules for municipal elections in Alberta?

Iveson said it also fits with the feeling of “frustration” he sensed among other municipal leaders.

“Any imposition without consultation is consistent with what we’ve been having on budget, and on other issues and that really needs to change.”

READ MORE: Restraint coming, but not Klein-era budget cuts, Kenney tells Alberta municipal leaders

Iveson hopes Madu is true to his word about avoiding a shift to partisan politicking.

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“I think the politics of all of this has already been concerning. I think the notion of divisive or partisan politics coming into the local level is sort of the last straw for a lot of us.”

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi told reporters the secrecy of the Alberta government is concerning.

“They’ll soon be releasing something called the Municipal Measurement Index. Do you know what that is? Me neither,” Nenshi said.

“We haven’t been consulted on it, we haven’t been asked to provide data, we haven’t been asked to suggest which measurements are important, so it’s like being given a report card when you never knew there was an exam,” he said.

“That’s an example of heavy-handed red tape, bureaucracy, stick it to the municipalities and I hope we’ll see much less of that.”

READ MORE: Calgary mayor, Alberta justice minister spar on Twitter over police budget impacts

The next municipal elections will be in October 2021.