Should third-party election-related expenses be forcibly disclosed?
St. Albert's mayor thinks so, and has given notice of motion to his council colleagues on the topic.
The motion, due to be debated once the election report comes to council, would see city staff investigate the legality and feasibility of a municipal election transparency bylaw, potentially including disclosure of third-party election-related donations and the disclosure of election-related expenses.
Mayor Nolan Crouse said this notice of motion is part of a pair of motions addressing third party election support. The other motion will be before council April 22 to send to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association; it's a motion looking for support on getting stronger provincial legislation.
"In British Columbia, I don't think it's been given third reading yet, the province has recognized third-party advertising is an issue. In Alberta at the provincial level they have stronger legislation. So what brought me to this is certainly third party advertising that has taken place in St. Albert in the last two elections," Crouse said.
The provincial legislation in Alberta dealing with third-party support in municipal elections could be deemed weak by some, he said.
In the most recent municipal election, third-party advertising is exemplified in the St. Albert Think Tank ads, billboards and flyers that went out. The flyer and some of the billboards supported particular candidates.
Crouse pointed out in 2010 something similar went on after the controversy over the Habitat for Humanity site.
He said he's not trying to stop third-parties from getting involved in elections.
"It's one thing to do it. It's another thing to not be accountable to the money and to the public and be transparent," he said.
Council candidates are expected to be transparent with their revenue sources, and he thinks third-party groups that opt to become involved in the political process should have to do the same. Crouse also wants expenses accounted for.
"Groups have rights. All I'm asking for is for it to be transparent," he said. "It's not just about Think Tank … it's really about, you could have groups of businesses put money together, you could have any combination that aren't necessarily accountable to anybody because they remain anonymous."
Part of what staff will look at – if the motion is passed – will be whether or not the local bylaw could be stronger than provincial legislation.
Crouse said he's had external legal advice that the issue could at least be explored.
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