Election transparency resolution passed

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Alberta municipalities support St. Albert's idea to report third party contributions

Reporting campaign contributions from the province’s municipal elections might become more transparent after a resolution proposed by St. Albert was adopted by Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) Thursday.

St. Albert had submitted a resolution which would see AUMA lobby the government of Alberta to change the Local Authorities Election Act “to strengthen campaign financial reporting transparency, particularly with respect to third party contributions or expenses to support a particular candidate” when it comes to municipal elections.

“It’s only one step,” said Mayor Nolan Crouse. Crouse had brought the resolution forward for St. Albert council approval earlier this year. Council voted to send it on to AUMA for consideration.

He suggested the resolution to council after the recent municipal election followed a recent pattern of other elections where third parties participated by throwing support behind certain candidates or against others. Because it’s a third-party campaign rather than a candidate’s personal election campaign, candidates aren’t required to list any such support on their campaign financial disclosures.

The resolution was adopted as part of this week’s AUMA conference held in Edmonton. Crouse said the resolution was passed with about 69 votes for and 31 against.

“I’m happy that this is going to nudge itself forward. I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but at least it’s starting to move up the ladder,” Crouse said.

He’s heard AUMA has already done some work on the topic and has approached the new provincial minister of municipal affairs as well.

The mayor’s not necessarily against the concept of third-party contributions – just the information not being public.

“I’m against the opaqueness of it, the cloak and dagger approach to this entire matter,” Crouse said. “It should be open, transparent, and maybe a registry, who’s behind it, how’s the money accounted for, et cetera.”

Crouse said feedback from other communities at the conference on the resolution has been positive.

“Around the AUMA people are just basically applauding St. Albert for bringing it forward,” Crouse said.

AUMA stated in its resolution book notes that according to the current Local Authorities Election Act those direct or indirect third-party contributions or expenses aren’t required to be reported.

“Notwithstanding the associated ethical questions, this results in an inconsistency between local authority candidates, an inconsistency with rules at the provincial level, and a lack of transparency overall,” the background information says, adding the act is also silent on the responsibility and accountability for verification of campaign disclosure statements.

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