Due to recent provincial changes, Alberta municipal election nominations opened earlier this year than usual. Nominations for council and mayoral positions will run province-wide from January 1st, 2021 until September 20, 2021. This aligns nomination times with the campaign period wherein a candidate can incur expenses and accept donations. If you are considering running, here are some things you may need to know.
To become a candidate you need to be 18 as of nomination day, have lived in your municipality for at least six months, and be a Canadian citizen. A candidate may accept contributions and incur campaign expenses only after filing nomination papers with the municipality or school board they intend to run in. You cannot owe the municipality any more than $50 in taxes, or $500 for any other arrears to be considered for candidacy. A person is also excluded from nomination if they have been convicted of an offence under the Local Authorities Elections act and other related legislation. Some municipalities require a nomination fee from each potential candidate. Election Day runs across the province on the third Monday in October, which falls on October 18, 2021 for the upcoming election, and those elected are committing to a 4 year term until October 2025. The only reason there would be an election between those two dates is if a councillor resigns, moves, or passes away and a by-election is necessitated.
The demands on a councillor shouldn’t be very heavy in smaller, more rural municipalities. There is no education or experience requirement to run for council. Mayor and council are expected to attend regular and special meetings of council, committee meetings, meetings of boards to which they are appointed by council, conferences, workshops, and other events that promote the municipality. Time should also be spent reviewing materials prepared by the town administration in preparation for meetings, talking to residents, and other stakeholders. This is necessary work to make informed decisions around the council table. For very small municipalities this work can take less than 5 hours a week, whereas in larger areas like Calgary, this can be a full-time job. Many of the committees meet once a month or once a quarter. Council usually meets twice a month with the committee of the whole meetings once or twice a month also.
Elected officials generally receive remuneration, or money paid to them for their services. Different communities pay this different ways- some pay monthly, some pay per meeting, and some communities use a mix of both. In many communities the mayor (or reeve in a county/municipal district) is entitled to a little more remuneration than the councillors. Many municipalities vote directly for a mayor during an election, but other municipalities in the area vote for councillors and then a mayor is selected internally by council. The mayor should have no greater power than any other voting member of council but is a figurehead chosen to lead the discussion around the council table and keep debate within the bounds of the procedure bylaw.
For those who apply for nomination, there is nothing in the legislation that prohibits a candidate from filing for and withdrawing their nomination multiple times between January 1 and September 20th (also known as nomination day, four weeks before the election). This allows for potential candidates to change their minds if life circumstances change throughout the nomination period. If you’re curious who your competition could be, so far all Cardston Councillors and Mayor have made statements to the paper that they have not made final decisions about running for the 2021 election yet, though some have expressed it as a possibility.
If you are considering running it may be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the Municipal Government Act, which is a legal rule book for local jurisdictions, and you could also read through some local bylaws (many of which can be found online). You could also read council agendas, observe meetings, or talk to municipal staff and current or former councillors. Mayor and council’s role is to enact good government, and establish policy for the municipality. Administration then gets the job of enacting the policy council creates. Contact your local administration to get a copy of the nomination paper and candidates acceptance form, on which you will need a minimum of 5 signatures from eligible voters in your area in order to file for nomination for election 2021.
Elizabeth Thompson-Christensen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star