Political parties could be coming to Calgary’s next municipal election

Political parties in Alberta have long been kept at the federal and provincial level but new legislation could bring party affiliations to city council. Margot Rubin reports.

Political parties could be coming to a municipal election near you.

The Alberta government introduced its sweeping Bill 20 on Thursday, part of which would give municipal candidates the option of joining a political party, so long as the party does not have any provincial or federal affiliation.

The province says the proposal to allow parties to run on municipal ballots will create more transparency for voters.

A pilot project will be launched during the next municipal elections in Edmonton and Calgary. The decision for a candidate to join a party will remain optional.

The move has already sent ripples through Calgary city hall, with some councillors contending that adding parties to city hall will only work to further divide.

“We deal largely with hyper-local things, and I think introducing political parties is only going to turn up the dial on partisanship and divisiveness,” says Coun. Jasmine Mian.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek disagrees with the notion of the bill creating more transparency.

“I am left asking why they have inserted themselves in a manner that actually strips the voting public rights to elect the council that they believe is the best to serve,” she says.

Coun. Dan MacLean claims the province is now only formalizing something that already exists.

“Last election we had an entity that was union-funded and well-organized, and endorsed and promoted a slate of candidates,” he says, referring to the group Calgary’s Future.

The province says the decision to allow political parties is focused on transparency and falls in line with what is already in place in B.C. and Quebec.

Alberta Municipalities says Bill 20 appears to fundamentally redraw the blueprint for local democracy in the province.

“For the last eight months, Alberta Municipalities has repeatedly said that the introduction of political parties in local elections is a bad idea that most Albertans do not want,” reads a statement from the group’s board of directors.

It goes on to say the UCP government is “deaf to the voices of Albertans, and blinded by their incessant fighting with the federal government.”

The new rules won’t allow municipal political parties to have any formal affiliation with any provincial or federal party, which also means there is no sharing of funds or voters lists.

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