Relationship with municipal affairs minister broken, AUMA says

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association is disappointed with the province's amendments it passed this week in the legislature regarding municipal election rules.

Nenshi surprised at tough stand by Alberta Urban Municipalities Association

Edmonton Coun. Andrew Knack says the government's failure to incorporate the wishes of municipalities into the bill is damaging to their ability to work together. (Peter Evans/CBC)

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association says its relationship with Kaycee Madu, the minister of municipal affairs, is broken.

The group is disappointed with the province's amendments to the Local Authorities Election Act passed this week in the Alberta Legislature regarding municipal election rules.

Andrew Knack, an Edmonton councillor and an AUMA board member, says the government didn't incorporate the wishes of municipalities in the bill and that has damaged their ability to work together.

"The government's decision to pass Bill 29 without changes demonstrates a lack of respect for the role of municipal councils … with profound consequences for democracies in Alberta's communities," Knack said.

"As a result, AUMA considers its relationship with the municipal affairs minister to be broken."

The AUMA wanted contribution limits for municipal election candidates to be lowered and for tougher rules for third parties brought in. However, the province is allowing campaign contributions up to $5,000.

"The average Albertan has limited resources to contribute to campaigns, especially during these challenging times," Knack said.

The head of the AUMA, Brooks Mayor Barry Morishita, says although the government talked about incorporating changes to the act, that didn't happen.

"We think this issue is a failure to move but we also have other things going on that we have to continue to move forward on," Morishita said.

The comments came during a Calgary city council intergovernmental affairs committee meeting on Thursday, chaired by Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

He says it's surprising the AUMA is taking such a tough stand.

"Regardless of the stripe of the government, they've always been very good about trying to find neutral solutions," Nenshi said.

 "The fact that the AUMA is saying that about the minister of municipal affairs, that's a big deal. It means, in their opinion, something quite bad has happened."

Nenshi says it's a "real message" to the province and that Premier Jason Kenney should take note of the problem.

"I've never seen the AUMA do anything like this before."

A spokesperson for Madu says Bill 29 wasn't passed to satisfy any one interest group.

"This non-partisan legislation was brought forward to increase voter participation and create a playing field where newcomers have a chance to challenge and defeat incumbents, ensuring the best candidates for the job are running and winning in our local elections," said Timothy Gerwing.

"The province will be getting big money out of politics this fall by moving to cap third-party activity. This was a platform commitment and it's a promise we're going to keep."

With files from Scott Dippel