Blog

Municipal elections and confusing legislation

By DJ Kelly April 28, 2010

Now that the spring is upon us and we are just six months away, many wonks are turning their thoughts to the municipal election in October. With Bill 9 receiving royal assent last week, you can include the Alberta Legislature in that group.

After the Bill was given assent into law, I gave it a read hoping to provide readers of my blog some insight beyond what has been given in the main stream media. Sadly I can’t give you any. I still have no idea what it says.

It’s a complicated mess of ‘this part is cut’ and ‘this is what it’s replaced with’ and ‘this is something new’. I felt stupid just trying to figure out what is new, what is old, and what is gone, let alone what it all means. Why can’t legislation be written for normal people? Why can’t it show the whole law as it stands now, instead of just an summary of all the changes, which forces you to go find previous versions to do some kind of legal, time-travelling mash-up? No wonder so many people breaking laws say things like “I didn’t know it was illegal” if we make finding out what is legal and illegal so hard.

(My solution would be to just have a bill that shows the deleted parts as text with a strikethough and new text as bold. Or new in green and deleted in red. Whatever. There just has be a better way. But I digress, because this is not what this post is about.)

Apparently the legal minds at the City of Calgary are having the same sorts of difficulty as I am. Although obviously they got through Bill 9 in enough detail to realize there is a section which don’t make sense.

Yesterday the Mayor sent the following letter to the Minister in charge of municipalities:

2010 April 27

The Honourable Hector Goudreau
Minister of Municipal Affairs
Government of Alberta
Municipal Affairs
104, 10800-97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6

Dear Minister Goudreau:

Re: Bill 9 – Local Authorities Election Statutes Amendment Act, 2010

I am writing you in respect of the above noted statute, which received Royal Assent on April 22, 2010, and is now in effect.

I understand that Bill 9 was intended to clarify certain issues raised by the amendments to the Local Authorities Election Act (RSA 2000, c. L-21) resulting from the Local Authorities Election (Finance and Contribution Disclosure) Amendment Act, 2009 (SA 2009, c.10; formerly Bill 203).

In particular, section 147.6 of the Local Authorities Election Act requires that:

(1) candidates for municipal office must file a declaration outlining the total amount of campaign contributions held by the candidate, including any surplus money from previous campaigns; and

(2) if the total amounts held by a candidate exceed $500, the candidate must pay the excess to the municipality.

Both of these requirements must be met within 3 months following the coming into force of the Local Authorities Election (Finance and Contribution Disclosure) Amendment Act, 2009. That statute came into force on February 3, 2010; accordingly, the above requirements must be met by May 3, 2010.

However, the Bill 9 amendments to the Local Authorities Election Act included the addition of the following section:

147.92(1) Sections 147.5,147.6,147.7(2) and (3) and 147.91(b) apply to campaign funds on or after December 1, 2011.

(2) Subsection (1) is deemed to have come into force on February 3, 2010.

Can you clarify that it was the intention of the Legislature in adding section 147.92 to delay the operation of section 147.6 until after the upcoming municipal elections taking place in October of this year? In other words, was it intended that a candidate would not be required to file his or her declaration and pay any surplus campaign funds pursuant to section 147.6 until December 1, 2011?

Furthermore, if the above was in fact intended, how is this to be reconciled with section 147.4(1} of the Local Authorities Election Act, as amended by Bill 9, which is a similar disclosure provision and which requires that candidates for municipal office file disclosure statements and pay any campaign surplus in excess of $500 to the municipality by March 1,2011?

In short, kindly clarify on what date candidates for municipal office are to file declarations or disclosure statements and pay any campaign surplus to the municipality.

I appreciate your assistance with clarifying this issue.

Sincerely,

Dave Bronconnier
MAYOR

I barely understand the question being asked here, but after several readings it seems to me the Province has multiple pieces of legislation, which are either contradictory, or mandating required time travel on the part of candidates. Either way; I agree, clarification is needed.

And I’m happy to see I’m not the only one who is confused.

  • Naheed

    I suspect you were trying to read the Bill on the screen, perfectly logical. But to make sense of it, you have to print it out, two sided. Then the new text appears on one side and the explanatory text on what has been changed and why is on the facing page.

  • You might be right! (I RARELY print anything because I find it to be an unneeded waste.) A little instruction on that front from the Queen's Printer might have been nice however. I'll have to try it and see if that helps. Thanks, Naheed.

  • Hi dj, got this from our Municipal Affairs people: “The intent of section 147.92 is to delay section 147.6 until after Dec. 1, 2011. The delay is to ensure that candidates are made aware of the disclosure requirements prior to the 2010 elections, and so that it would not have a retroactive effect for the 2007 elections. This delay will also allow time for further consultation with stakeholders on this specific provision for legislative changes.”
    A copy of the Act can be found at: http://www.assembly.ab.ca/
    I hope this helps.
    – David Sands, Government of Alberta