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City to examine disclosure of third-party election donations

Disclosures could include donations, expense information and other items aimed at transparency

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 30, 2014 06:00 am

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The city will be examining the feasibility and legality of bringing in a bylaw aimed at increasing the transparency of third party election participation.

Last week, council agreed to send a similar resolution to the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association for consideration, asking for the province to look at the Local Authorities Election Act.

The motion passed by council this week will look at a more local solution.

“This is all intending to say ‘what is it that can be done locally to improve transparency?’” said mayor Nolan Crouse.

Coun. Tim Osborne asked for some clarification on the portion of the motion which asked staff to look at the disclosure of election-related expenses.

Crouse noted candidates do not have to declare the details of their expenses.

“I’m looking for a break down,” Crouse said.

Coun. Sheena Hughes asked what the mayor’s goal was with the motion.

“The ultimate goal is increase transparency,” Crouse said.

“If the third party does their own campaign, that’s their own decision, that’s not a donation,” Hughes said.

“All I’m really asking for with this motion, is if it’s legal (and feasible,)” Crouse said. “This does not take it to a transparency bylaw.”

Hughes asked for two amendments, both of which Crouse accepted as friendly amendments so they did not go to a vote.

The amendments meant unions were specifically added, as well as asking staff to look at potentially having donors disclose vested interests in the city.

Hughes suggested looking into that disclosure of vested interests so that people reading candidates’ financial disclosures after the election might understand what the reasons might be for the donation.

The motion asked for administration to investigate and report back in the second quarter of 2015.

“I fear this motion is turning into a bit of a dog’s breakfast,” said Coun. Tim Osborne after the amendments were added. “I hope we recognize the onus needs to start and finish with the individuals who run for office.”

Coun. Gilles Prefontaine said he thinks such a potential bylaw could help clarify who and what should be disclosed.

Crouse noted that third party groups have been active in St. Albert’s recent elections. “All of that has the potential of being non-transparent,” he said.

Council passed the motion unanimously, in a 6-0 vote. Coun. Cam MacKay was absent.



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