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Calgary councillor labels Danielle Smith’s Bill 20 social media post ‘misinformation’

A Calgary city councillor has labelled a recent social media post by Premier Danielle Smith’s “misinformation”.

On May 1, Ward 8 Coun. Courtney Walcott put forward a motion to ask Alberta Municipalities to explore allowing permanent residents to vote in civic elections. The motion passed 9-6. Walcott said he wanted permanent residents to be engaged in their communities.

He said the motion doesn’t mean the council is allowing non-citizens to vote but rather opens up the debate at the provincial level.

On Tuesday, Premier Danielle Smith said in a social media post that the province needs to take a “second look” at city decisions that are “unconstitutional or fall outside their responsibility” in rare circumstances.

“One example is the City of Calgary attempting to alter election laws to allow non-citizens to vote. That is simply not appropriate nor within their authority. Bill 20 will provide the province with a tool to deal with these rare but serious examples of municipal overreach,” Smith’s post on X read.

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This comes after the United Conservative government tabled Bill 20, or the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act, in provincial legislature on April 25.

If passed, the amendments to the Municipal Government Act will allow cabinet to remove a councillor “if (it’s) in the public interest” or to order a referendum to decide whether a councillor should be removed, which will be reviewed in a case-by-case basis.

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The amendment will also enable cabinet to require a municipal government to amend or repeal a bylaw, as well as giving cabinet the ability to postpone elections.

Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver previously stated that only Canadian citizens can vote in civic elections and the province will not be changing this requirement.

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Walcott labelled Smith’s social media post “misinformation,” saying it misrepresents the motion in support of Bill 20.

“That is massively problematic from the leader of the province,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “I can’t speculate on why she would have said what she said, but I can point out that she referenced a columnist article instead of the motion itself. And that raises problems because this is not the first time that (has) happened.”

Walcott added Smith’s push for Bill 20 shows that she is not disapproving a bylaw because of the bylaw’s contents but based on perception of the bylaw.

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“That’s not exactly a very healthy sense of democracy, isn’t it, when you don’t even have to read the motion to make the suggestion that it is unconstitutional, or that it is something that is,” he said.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek told reporters Tuesday that the province is trying to exercise control with Bill 20 and is using any example to do so.

“The premier is also making comments about how Calgary has voted to allow permanent residents to have a vote in the election. That’s absolutely not what we did. I think the Premier is finding convenient talking points that are actually not true to advance Bill 20, which is really a power grab,” she said.

McIver has promised to amend the bill and discuss the proposed changes with municipal leaders, who say they should have been consulted before the bill was even introduced. But on Monday, when asked by reporters on the state of consultations, McIver pointed to the fact he already spoke with multiple leaders “over the last few days” about the impending changes.

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When asked if he considered those discussions to be the promised consultation, McIver declined to clarify.

— With files from Bob Weber, The Canadian Press.

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