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ABmunis makes a case against Bill 20

Posted on May 9, 2024 by Sunny South News

By Cal Braid
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On April 29, Tyler Gandam, president of Alberta Municipalities (ABmunis) and mayor of Wetaskiwin, came out firing on a subject that he has repeatedly objected to over the last year: the introduction of political parties into municipal elections. 

His press conference came in the wake of an announcement that Bill 20 will move forward as a ‘pilot-project’ in Calgary and Edmonton. The bill would allow political candidates to declare their party ties while running for municipal office. It would also enable the province to overturn municipal bylaws and remove councillors when deemed necessary.

Gandam said that 4.1 of Alberta’s 4.8 million residents live in the 265 ABmunis member communities. That’s 85 per cent of the province, and more than 2.4 million of those are clustered in the Calgary and Edmonton areas.

“Community means working together for the benefit of all,” Gandam began. “Our province –our home– has prospered because this sense of community is fundamental to who we are. That sense of community is now threatened. We know that Albertans appreciate elected officials who say what they mean and mean what they say. Albertans value straight talk and they don’t shy way from difficult conversations. So, I’m going to tell it the way Alberta Municipalities sees it.”

“To be clear ABmunis is speaking out about Bill 20. The bill has already created an atmosphere in which some of our members are fearing repercussions if they disagree openly with the provincial government.”

“Here’s what ABmunis has determined so far: Bill 20 is an attempt by the provincial government to grab more power and wield more control over how people choose to live in their own communities. The bill reduces the autonomy and authority of a recognized order of government – your local government,” Gandam said..

He said that ABmunis opposes a bill that could be used to “intimidate and silence legally elected officials who dare to crticize the provincial government.”

If passed, the bill would allow corporations and unions to contribute up to $5,000 to candidates of their choice. Gandam believes the bill will blur the transparency of elections, and independent candidates will be outspent by party candidates who are backed by big spenders. “If the bill passes in its current form, local government elections will end up being about what influential corporations and unions want, not about what voters want. Essentially, Bill 20 puts local governments up for sale to the highest bidder.”

The bill would give the provincial government the power to remove councillors and repeal bylaws “based on backroom cabinet decisions made without public scrutiny or accountability,” Gandam said. “Good ideas that run contrary to the government of the day will be squashed.”

“Sound financial investments in the community’s interest will be stalled by partisan bickering and the needs of a community will be overridden in favour of the needs of the corporations and unions who donate the most money.”

He wondered aloud about who will stand to benefit most from Bill 20. Provincial and ABmunis surveys have clearly indicated that a majority (~70 per cent) of polled Albertans are opposed to bringing party politics into municipal governments. Gandam backed his convictions with courage by asking a pointed question about Premier Danielle Smith. “Who is she serving? Who is she listening to if it isn’t Albertans?” It’s a question that deserves an answer. “Bill 20 is an attempt by the government to centralize, strengthen, and tighten her government’s hold on power.”

“It will set neighbours against each other, it will keep local elected officials constantly second-guessing the best decisions for their communities, and impede the progress of our villages, towns, and cities.”

Gandam encourages all Albertans who oppose the bill to take their concerns directly to their MLAs in the form of written or verbal objections. “In the spirit of the premier’s words, which she aimed at the federal government: the provincial government should do its job and stop trying to do the work of local elected officials.” In other words, stay in your own lane.

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