EDMONTON — One day after Premier Jason Kenney announced Albertans would have the opportunity to answer two referendum questions in the upcoming municipal elections – the move is drawing criticism from political pundits in the province.
Kenney announced the issue of daylight saving time (DST) would join his government’s previously announced question of the fairness of equalization payments in October.
“It is clear that Albertans are passionate about this and a change on this matter should not be taken lightly,” he said during the Thursday news conference. “How Albertans calculate time affects nearly every one of us including those outside our border.”
But, one political scientist from Calgary’s Mount Royal University told CTV News Edmonton the question on DST seems “out of place.”
“I think they’re throwing it into the mix on a deliberate basis,” said Duane Bratt. “They’re hoping it will draw more people to the polls, which will give a higher turnout, in that they hope that equalization referendum passes and now passes with a higher voter turnout.”
According to Service Alberta, in 2019, 141,000 Albertans were surveyed on the question of DST. Ninety-one per cent of them said the practice of changing Alberta’s clocks twice a year should end.
One public engagement specialist told CTV News Edmonton that data should make the referendum question obsolete.
“The government has already done due diligence on this issue,” Chris Henderson said. “We elect a representative government to make these decisions for us. They have ample information about it, not only about the impacts of it but also our opinion on it.
“We don’t need to go to a non-binding provincial referendum. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and it’s a waste of money.”
‘THE POTENTIAL TO DISTRACT FROM MUNICIPAL ISSUES’
The president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) and mayor of the City of Brooks Barry Morishita told CTV News Edmonton the added decisions Albertans are being asked to make are too much.
“I think the conversation around them has the potential to distract from municipal issues,” the AUMA president said.
“We have a lot of big decisions to make and choosing your leadership, from councillors to mayors, is an important job and we should be taking the time to explore those as fully as we can.”
“Rather than having a conversation about municipal budgets and service levels we’re going to talk about daylight saving time and equalization payments.”
The other issue, according to Morishita, is the burden of running the referendums in conjunction with the municipal elections.
The province has committed $10 million to help fund that burden, but Morishita said that won’t be enough.
“The 52 summer villages who are holding their elections right now, or have held them just recently, all of those ballots are going to have to be dealt with by other communities.”
Morishita said AUMA asked the province not to link referendum questions to the municipal election.
“We asked them to consider running them in conjunction with the (provincial election), or some other way, and they refused to do that.”
In a written statement to CTV News Edmonton, press secretary for Alberta Municipal Affairs Charlotte Taillon said: “The number of referenda questions does not impact the grant funding allocated to municipalities and does not impact the municipal costs of conducting the votes.
“Holding the provincial referendum vote in conjunction with municipal votes is not only convenient for Albertans, it saves on the cost of running a separate voting process.”
‘IT’S ESSENTIAL WE KEEP LOCAL ELECTIONS FOCUSED ON LOCAL ISSUES’
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson released a statement on Thursday that stressed the importance of staying focused on economic recovery and jobs when voting for municipal leaders in October.
“This election is about rebuilding post-pandemic Edmonton,” the statement read in part.
“Edmontonians are savvy voters. When they go to the polls in October, I believe they will not be distracted; they will instead thoughtfully consider the votes that matter — votes that have actual meaningful consequences for their daily lives.”
Albertans will head to the polls to vote for their preferred councillors, mayors, and now senators as well as equalization and DST opinions on Oct. 18.
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Dan Grummett
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