Government Of Alberta Proposes Substantial Changes To Municipal Elections And Governance

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On April 25, 2024, the Government of Alberta tabled Bill 20, the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act.
Canada Government, Public Sector
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On April 25, 2024, the Government of Alberta tabled Bill 20, the Municipal Affairs Statutes Amendment Act. The bill proposes changes to two pieces of legislation concerning municipal elections and governance: the Municipal Government Act and the Local Authorities Election Act. If passed, the province anticipates that these changes will come into force immediately upon royal assent.

Municipal Political Parties

The bill's most visible change would be to introduce political parties to municipal elections in Alberta. Currently, mayoral and municipal office candidates are required to run as independents. Bill 20 would remove that requirement, allowing municipal candidates to join a municipal political party. These municipal political parties would not have any affiliation with existing provincial or federal political parties, and municipal candidates would still be free to run as independents should they choose.

If passed, Bill 20 would see municipal political parties introduced in Calgary and Edmonton as a pilot project for the next election cycle in October 2025. Following the pilot project, municipal political parties could be expanded to other municipalities thereafter.

Campaign Finance Reform

Bill 20 proposes two changes affecting how municipal candidates finance their campaigns.

Currently, donations to municipal candidates outside of local election years are limited to $5,000 per year. Bill 20 would remove that non-election year "cap" on donations and require candidates to report the donations they receive annually.

Bill 20 would also tighten regulations on so-called "third-party advertisers"—individuals or corporations advertising for the promotion or opposition of a municipal office candidate—by requiring them to publicly disclose the donations they receive. Donations to these third-party advertisers would be limited to $5,000 per election cycle, beginning May 1 of the election year.

Other Important Changes to the Municipal Government Act

  • Enabling the provincial Cabinet to force a municipality to amend or repeal a bylaw.
  • Granting the provincial Cabinet the power to dismiss elected municipal officials, including mayors and councillors.
  • Transferring the power to validate recall petitions from each municipality's Chief Administrative Officer to the provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs.
  • Prohibiting municipalities from holding additional public hearings not required by legislation. This measure's stated goal is to prevent municipalities from purposefully delaying initiatives.

Other Changes to the Local Authorities Election Act

  • Permitting unions and corporations to make donations to municipal candidates of up to $5,000. Unions and corporations were barred from donating to municipal campaigns in prior election cycles.
  • Banning the use of electronic voting machines in municipal elections.
  • Allowing municipalities to require criminal record checks for candidates. This provision would not be mandatory, and municipalities would be free to allow candidates to run without such checks.
  • Allowing the province to postpone municipal elections in the case of an emergency or natural disaster.

Reaction and Proposed Amendments

Since its announcement, Bill 20 has been criticized by municipal officials, with several mayors and councillors in Alberta characterizing it as an attempt by the Government of Alberta to shift political power away from municipalities and towards the province.

In response, the Government of Alberta has promised amendments to the bill, although there is no word yet as to what those amendments might look like. Most notably, municipal officials have been vocal in criticizing the bill's proposed changes to the Municipal Government Act, particularly Cabinet's ability to remove municipal officials from office and force the repeal of bylaws. Thus, we expect any proposed amendments to address these powers in some form.


The introduction of Bill 20 represents a substantial shift in municipal governance and election procedure in Alberta. Municipalities and third-party advertisers should continue to monitor the status of Bill 20, any proposed amendments, and subsequent regulations set to be introduced later this summer should the bill pass.

We will continue to monitor the progress of Bill 20 and any subsequent legislation related to the municipal election framework in Alberta. Members of the Bennett Jones team would be pleased to discuss any questions respecting the proposed bill, or to answer any other questions you may have.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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