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Third party rules needed from province

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

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Money talks and suckers walk. It’s an old adage that could very well apply to St. Albert municipal elections.

Mayor Nolan Crouse is on a quest to increase what he refers to as transparency during St. Albert’s municipal elections, specifically the revenues and expenses of third-party election-related activities for candidates. Transparency is an admirable goal, but accountability should always be mentioned in the same sentence.

Crouse isn’t the only one who’s felt this way, whether it’s here in St. Albert or elsewhere in Canada. In 2010, the B.C. government received Local Government Elections Task Force Campaign Financing in B.C., a report authored by the local elections branch of the provincial government.

“As some citizens may have greater means, they may also have an enhanced ability to financially contribute to an election campaign, or to advertise their view on who should be elected outside of a recognized campaign,” stated the report.

“The principles of transparency and accountability are central to campaign finance rules. Campaign financing should be transparent so that the electorate are aware of the presence of special interests and other factors that might influence the policies and actions of candidates and parties once in office. Failing to comply with rules designed to ensure fairness and transparency – such as disclosure rules –should have effective consequences or such rules cannot serve the principle of accountability.”

Bravo. The statement strikes right to the heart of transparency and accountability debates in local elections. Who is spending money supporting candidates, how did they choose those candidates and, most importantly, why did they choose them?

The excuse popping up time and again for anonymity in St. Albert is “protection from retaliation,” which is complete bunk. No record of any election retaliation can be found in the Gazette’s archives and if the last municipal election is any indication, and it is, anonymity is employed in the same manner as a cowardly goon running up behind someone unawares and breaking a bottle over his or her head.

The voters of St. Albert have a right to know who is trying to influence their local election, and why they’re trying to do it. Those with true conviction would welcome such a chance to make their own case.

Council should be applauded for at least moving ahead to examine this issue through a bylaw, but it’s likely a waste of time. This is provincial jurisdiction, and the City of St. Albert is better served by its lobbying of the provincial government for additions to the Local Authorities Election Act that address these glaring shortcomings.


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