Canada News

Get the latest new in Candada

Calgary

Questions raised surrounding Alberta’s Bill 20: ‘Unprecedented intervention’

Proposed legislation would give provincial cabinet more powers over cities and towns across Alberta. Following the announcement of Bill 20 on Thursday, political scientists and law experts are weighing in on how the province can exercise control and whether it should.

The government of Alberta has tabled legislation that will give it sweeping powers over municipalities across the province, including the right to fire councillors and overturn bylaws.

Bill 20, the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act, includes two pieces of legislation: the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA) and the Municipal Government Act (MGA).

If passed, the amendments to the Municipal Government Act will allow cabinet to remove a councillor “if 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.

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.

Story continues below advertisement

University of Alberta Law professor Eric Adams says the law states that the provincial and federal governments are considered equals. However, the same can’t be said for provincial and municipal governments.

Adams adds that this is not technically out of the province’s jurisdiction.

“The province is on very sure constitutional grounds. They absolutely can exercise this control over both those cities or any city if they wish. The province could make Edmonton and Calgary disappear if they wanted to through legislation. But just because you have a power, of course, doesn’t mean that it should be exercised,” said Adams.

“Certainly an unprecedented intervention into the affairs of two large cities.”

Click to play video: 'New legislation gives Alberta Government more municipal oversight'

New legislation gives Alberta Government more municipal oversight

Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said the new powers are justified to ensure fair elections and accountability from municipal leaders, and they would only be used as a last resort.

Story continues below advertisement

“The province needs to be warned about too, to stay in our lanes. We often remind the federal government and municipal government to stay in their lanes and perhaps occasionally the provincial government needs to be reminded,” McIver said.

The email you need for the day’s top news stories from Canada and around the world.

He said the criteria for removing councillors would be decided by Premier Danielle Smith’s cabinet on a case-by-case basis.

“I think the public would be most unforgiving of us if we make a decision to dismiss a duly elected councillor and don’t have a darn good reason,” McIver said.

Click to play video: 'Alberta government tables legislation with new rules around municipalities'

Alberta government tables legislation with new rules around municipalities

The proposed changes would also enable municipal political parties in the October 2025 municipal election, but only as a “pilot project” in Calgary and Edmonton.

Candidates are not required to register with a political party in order to run for office.

Story continues below advertisement

More than 70 per cent of Albertans in a recent poll said they do not want municipal parties, so many wonder why this is coming in.

“Why those cities specifically? Obviously, they’re bigger, that’s for sure, but then why not Red Deer? Why not Lethbridge? Those are our medium-sized cities. So it starts to look like maybe this is something about specifically the government or the councils in Calgary or Edmonton,” said MacEwan University assistant professor of political science Brendan Boyd.

Boyd says citizen trust levels are strong at the municipal level and introducing political parties could fracture that reputation.

“Local government tends to be the highest, higher than the provincial or federal. One of the reasons for that I think is because they don’t get into the partisan politics where they start to vote along party lines rather than represent their constituents,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton city councillors call on Danielle Smith for apology on anonymous letter comments'

Edmonton city councillors call on Danielle Smith for apology on anonymous letter comments

The bill has garnered strong reaction from local leaders across Alberta.

Story continues below advertisement

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said that she is left with more questions than answers. While she welcomes criminal record checks for candidates, she raised concerns about other parts of the bill.

“This is a piece of legislation that requires a thoughtful and fulsome response. However, we have little to no details on things that will change the face of municipal governments,” she told reporters at a news conference Thursday.

Edmonton councillor Andrew Knack says the changes being introduced are heartbreaking.

“This is why I don’t think it’s an understatement to use the term that it’s an assault on the democratic process. It’s going out of its way to try and create intimidation and to stop people from representing the residents that we were elected to serve as well,” said Ward Nakota Isga Coun. Andrew Knack.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton city council approves 8.9% property tax increase in 2024'

Edmonton city council approves 8.9% property tax increase in 2024

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi says the province should focus on issues that are priorities of Edmontonians and called the bill an attack on local democracy.

Story continues below advertisement

“The province should not be coming in and threatening mayors, saying that if we don’t think the way the province thinks and we pass bylaws the province doesn’t like, that they are going to step in and fire us in the pretense of public interest as they define public interest. That’s not something democratic,” Sohi said Thursday.

Adams says there’s not much municipalities can do to fight the legislation, so they may have to inspire change in other ways…

“The appeal in some ways will be to voters and maybe especially to those voters in Edmonton who have no representation around that cabinet table,” said Adams.

— with files from the Canadian Press and Global News’ Paula Tran and Adam MacVicar

More on Politics

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

View original article here Source