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A bill to buy municipal elections

I've got to hand it to the Alberta Government, in particular the Minister of Municipal Affairs. It's hard to imagine how anyone can keep a straight face while saying such awful proposed legislation is beneficial.
Airdrie letters_text

Dear editor,

Bill 29 is a bill to buy municipal elections - plain and simple.

I've got to hand it to the Alberta government and the Minister of Municipal Affairs in particular. It's hard to imagine how anyone can keep a straight face while saying such awful proposed legislation is beneficial.

Currently, individuals can contribute no more than $4,000 during a municipal election campaign, and only half that amount may go to any single candidate. Bill 29 proposes to increase the amount to $5,000 per candidate for an unlimited number of candidates.

Alberta has more than 300 municipalities. In theory, that means the limit will go from $4,000 per donor to over $1.5 million. Admittedly, such a scenario is unlikely, but in Rocky View County (RVC), the maximum contribution will go from $4,000 per donor to $45,000. It could be even more, as an individual could contribute to two candidates running against each other  – a contribution to the person you want to win and another to someone that can badmouth your favourite candidate's major opponent. Even those amounts could double, as the possibility exists a further $5,000 per candidate could be contributed by an individual to that same candidate if, after the election, the candidate has not covered election expenses.

Few individuals can afford such largesse, but plenty of corporations would find such amounts to be both small and excellent investments.

Even then, candidates do not have to disclose the names of contributors or amounts contributed until after the election. Plus, prior to the commencement of the official election campaign period, third parties may advertise to their hearts' content without any disclosure.

An even greater concern may be that this B]bill is proposed at the very same time the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is warning that foreign governments have far too much influence over Canadian elections. That dangerous influence, according to CSIS, is not due to political dogma persuasion but rather financial considerations.

The way it should work is, if you're eligible to vote in a jurisdiction, you're eligible to contribute in that jurisdiction. If you're not eligible to vote, you may not contribute.

Our provincial government claims Bill 29 will be advantageous to all candidates, as they could spend their time going door-to-door during hectic campaigns, instead of having to worry if donations are sufficient to cover their election expenses. Assuming elected officials properly serve their constituents, successful candidates will be even busier once elected than during the campaign.

Maybe what we need at all levels of government are people who constantly prioritize budgeting. Perhaps then we wouldn't be drowning in debt. If you cannot keep your own expenses within budget, you're hardly likely to do so for your municipality, province or country.

Democracies spend a fortune holding elections; perhaps the next logical step for the Alberta government is to cancel municipal elections. Instead, each seat could go up for auction. Bidders – be they local, provincial, out of province or foreign – are welcome to participate. The only prerequisite is they must come bearing cash.

To be clear , I do not have an axe to grind with our provincial government. I am a member of the United Conservative Party. If Bill 29 is not significantly changed, the function of my UCP membership is likely destined to be used for lining birdcages or training puppies.

Jerry Arshinoff

Former RVC councillor, Division 2