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ABmunis rejects party politics at local level

Posted on March 7, 2024 by admin

By Cal Braid
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Alberta Municipalities (ABmunis) held a news conference on Feb. 22 to announce the results of a November 2023 poll on municipal elections and governance. The issue at hand was whether respondents approved of listing a local candidate’s party affiliation on the ballot. The poll showed that over 70 per cent were not in favour of the idea. During the month-long polling period, Albertans had a chance to weigh in on potential changes to the Local Authorities Elections Act and Municipal Government Act as the UCP contemplated changes to both.

The results of the poll were consistent with other findings, according to ABmunis President Tyler Gandam. “A survey conducted by pollster Janet Brown for ABmunis in early Sept. 2023 found that 68 per cent of Albertans are opposed to the introduction of partisan politics at the local level. A resolution expressing opposition to the idea received 95 per cent of the vote at ABmunis annual convention later that month. There’s clearly little support for the provincial government’s plan to introduce divisiveness into local governments,” he said. A second poll that closed in Dec. 2023 confirmed a similar public stance.

Gandam said that no one has clearly explained what problems would be fixed by merging party politics into municipal affairs. The current model, he said, enables mayors and councillors to debate and vote on issues from independent points of view–minus the party politics. Residents expect those conversations to be productive and lead to solutions.

Gandam dispelled the idea that voter turnout would improve if a candidate’s party ties were stated up front. He said preliminary research in Vancouver and Montreal, two cities where party politics are practiced, has shown that similar voter turnout occurs in those cities compared to Alberta municipalities. He said another strike against the concept is that municipal officials would be forced into a balancing act of toeing the party line and serving the community simultaneously. A conflict of interest would inevitably arise.

“Local governments should be safe spaces for conversation and dialogue among neighbours, without the divisiveness or vitriol we are seeing at the provincial and federal levels,” he said.

During the press conference, questions arose about how the push for municipal party politics gained traction. Was the ‘Take Back Alberta’ squad involved? Was it the precedent set in other provinces? Gandam didn’t point the finger, but ended with a firm conclusion.

“ABmunis members are deeply troubled by the idea that local elected officials might put the interests of their political parties ahead of those of the group that matters most, their constituents. Our association’s message to the Government of Alberta and special interest groups that are eager to see partisan politics introduced at the local level is clear, unwavering and unequivocal: listen to regular Albertans who have repeatedly said they simply aren’t interested.”

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