Elections Alberta recommends changes to the LAEA
Alberta’s Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA) was updated to address third-party advertising and the new role of the Election Commissioner in December 2018. At the same time, Alberta’s Election Commissioner was authorized to accept and investigate complaints related to specific aspects of municipal elections, including candidate spending limits and contribution restrictions and rules for third parties.
The Election Commissioner received and investigated complaints under the new LAEA provisions for the first time in relation to the 2021 municipal elections. Elections Alberta summarized the challenges they encountered in completing these investigations in its 2021-2022 Annual Report, which include:
- Inconsistencies within sections of the LAEA.
- Conflicting views between agencies as to the interpretation of the legislation.
- Conflicting advice being given to electors and candidates by various agencies and municipalities.
284 complaints were received by the Elections Commissioner during the 2021-22 fiscal year related to the LAEA. As of year-end, 253 had been concluded. Most of these complaints were not within the jurisdiction of the Election Commissioner to address, so they were referred to the appropriate agencies.
ABmunis has long advocated that Municipal Affairs should undertake a full review of the LAEA. The ministry has indicated some willingness to do so, but it has faced challenges in finding a suitable time to initiate this process due to changes in leadership (i.e., a new minister and a new premier) and the upcoming provincial election.
Elections Alberta also set out several recommendations for changes to the LAEA in their 2021-2022 Annual Report (on pages 76-85) to address the issues they identified, which include:
- Empower the local jurisdiction to remove non-compliant signage and advertising.
- Clarify the extent to which a candidate can self-fund.
- Clarify the operation and intent of provisions addressing acceptance of contributions by candidates.
- Add a provision that prohibits third parties from engaging in activities that would normally be undertaken by a candidate unless they are recorded as election expenses (at fair market value) by the candidate.
- Require public access to third-party registers and filings.
- Add a provision that establishes an appropriate maximum fine for a candidate that colludes with a third party advertiser to circumvent a contribution or expense limit.
- Prohibit the registration of a third party that is affiliated with a candidate.
- Make specific adjustments to the Election Commissioner’s complaint and investigation process (which are described in detail in their 2021-2022 Annual Report).
Our association will continue pushing for an overhaul of the LAEA. We will align with allies and support like-minded opinions, like the one shared by Elections Alberta, in advocating to the provincial government to improve this important act.