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Bill 203, the Local Authorities Election (Finance and Contribution Disclosure) Amendment Act, 2009,[1]passed third and final reading in Alberta’s legislature on May 25, 2009. It came into force upon receiving Royal Assent the following day.[2] The legislation was introduced on March 5 by Progressive Conservative MLA Jeff Johnson, who said it “would define province-wide standards for municipal election finance and disclosure requirements, allowing for greater transparency and ultimately enhancing the integrity of democracy in Alberta.”[3]

Prior to the passage of Bill 203, only a handful of Alberta’s approximately 360 municipalities had campaign finance rules.[4] Mr. Johnson stated in the legislature that Bill 203 “mirrors” federal and provincial election finance legislation and is similar to existing municipal election finance legislation in Ontario, Quebec and B.C.[5]
 
Alberta’s Local Authorities Election Act[6] will now include several provisions relating to election finance. Section 147.02(1) limits individual contributions to $5,000 within a given campaign period.[7] Section 147.01(g) defines which organizations are not eligible to make municipal campaign contributions, including trade unions.[8] The prohibition of union contributions to municipal campaigns was criticized by opposition MLAs Harry Chase and Rachel Notley.[9] Section 147.03 outlines the duties of candidates regarding election finance and disclosure regulations.[10] Finally, section 147.05 provides that the municipality will hold in trust the campaign funds, in excess of $500, of a candidate until the next election period.[11]
 
The Alberta legislature is also proceeding with Bill 205, the Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure (Third Party Advertising) Amendment Act, 2009,[12] introduced by government MLA Rob Anderson. The proposed legislation would apply to third parties (not registered political parties) which engage in political advertising during election periods. It would limit individual contributions to third party advertising accounts to $15,000 in any non-election year and to $30,000 in an election year. Third parties would also have to identify themselves on all election advertising and open a third party advertising account, to which contributions of over $375 would have to be declared.[13]
 
On May 25, 2009, when Bill 205 was debated in Committee of the Whole, government MLA Neil Brown proposed an amendment that would impose a $3000 cap on third party expenditures to promote or oppose one or more candidates in a electoral district during an election.[14] This provision would be similar to third party expenditure restrictions in B.C. and at the federal level, both of which have been upheld by the courts.[15]
 
Mr. Anderson opposed the amendment, saying he believed such a cap was rejected by the government caucus because it would be too restrictive of individuals’ freedom of speech.[16]
 
 
Further Reading
 
Dan Shouldice, “Alberta’s Bill 205 on Third Party Election Advertising May Invite Charter Challenge” Centre for Constitutional Studies (8 May 2009).
 


[1] 2nd Sess., 27th Leg., Alberta, 2009.
[2] Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Alberta Hansard (25 May 2009) at 1215; Legislative Assembly of Alberta,Status of Bill 203: Local Authorities Election (Finance and Contribution Disclosure) Amendment Act, 2009 (Johnson) (undated).
[3] Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Alberta Hansard (5 March 2009) at 251-252.
[4] Legislative Assembly of Alberta, Alberta Hansard (16 March 2009) at 408.
[5] Ibid.Local Government Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 323, ss. 83-93; An Act respecting elections and referendums in municipalities, R.S.Q., c. E-2.2, ss. 364-513.3; Municipal Elections Act, S.O. 1996, c. 32, ss. 66-82.1.
[6] R.S.A. 2000, c. L-21.
[7] Supra note 1 at section 3.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Supra note 4 at 409 and 411.
[10] Supra note 1 at section 3.
[11] Ibid.
[12] 2nd Sess., 27th Leg., Alberta, 2009.
[13] Dan Shouldice, “Alberta’s Bill 205 on Third Party Election Advertising May Invite Charter ChallengeCentre for Constitutional Studies (8 May 2009).
[14] Supra note 2 at 1220.
[15] Supra note 13.
[16] Supra note 2 at 1221-22.
 
 
 

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