Potential council candidates urged to study up

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Resources are available for those considering a run at a council seat

If you’re mulling a run for city council and aren’t sure where to start, there are a few different resources to learn what you need to know.

“We have a lot of information on the city website,” said Chris Belke, chief legislative officer for the City of St. Albert. Online, the city has a full suite of details on everything from sign regulations to financial disclosure for candidates.

Municipal Affairs also has a general site – www.albertaleaders.ca – for electors considering running for office.

Still, one of the key sources of information can be talking to someone who’s run before.

“They need to know what they’re getting themselves into,” Belke said.

He said candidates should familiarize themselves with the Local Authorities Election Act, which sets out the rules for municipal elections in Alberta, and the Municipal Government Act, which sets out the rules for how municipal governments are run.

St. Albert does have a relevant bylaw but it’s mostly used to tweak items that are within the city’s rights to change, like polling hours or sign requirements.

“There’s a small modification to sign regulation,” he said.

The modification for this year regards the sign size on St. Albert Trail, setting a minimum size of about four feet by four feet.

The city’s candidate handbook covers everything from salaries and expected workload to financial disclosure.

Candidates need to track their contributions, ensure donors are eligible contributors and will have to file that documentation with the city probably by March 2014, Belke said.

“They are absolutely public knowledge,” he said.

While a summary will be presented to council at a public council meeting, members of the public can request to see the full disclosure documents at city hall.

Nomination day is Sept. 23 and candidates have to file their papers between 8 a.m. and noon that day. The list of candidates won’t be official until noon Sept. 24, as candidates have 24 hours to withdraw unless there aren’t enough candidates to fill council seats. There’s no deposit required when submitting nomination forms, which must be signed by five eligible electors.

Prior to nomination day, those considering a run can learn about things like financial disclosure and other requirements during a city-run information session Sept. 18 or sessions run by Municipal Affairs. Municipal Affairs is putting on workshops around the province in late August and early September.

The Sept. 18 city-run session follows one held back in May.

“The one in September is more geared towards people who’ve already made their minds up,” Belke said.

Typically there’s at least one all-candidates forum held by local organizations during the election, Belke said.

After the Oct. 21 election, successful candidates will have their first council meeting Nov. 4. However, city staff will help make sure they’re ready to get right down to the business of governing prior to the meeting.

“We do a lot of orientation for council,” Belke said.

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