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Jason Franson | The Canadian Press | Canva

Albertans Say ‘No Thanks’ to Political Parties in Local Elections, But Danielle Smith Isn’t Listening

Despite a chorus of “NOs” louder than a heavy metal concert, Danielle Smith still toys with the idea of adding partisan seasoning to the municipal stew

Danielle Smith’s government has been looking into bringing political parties into municipal and school board elections. 

What they’ve found has been pretty straightforward. Albertans aren’t on board.

Tyler Gandam, the President of Alberta Municipalities, spoke passionately at a recent press conference.

“People want to keep their communities as the last area free of political vitriol,” he stated bluntly.

These are strong words but they match Albertans’ strong feelings toward the potential change.

Two surveys the Government of Alberta privately organized to gauge public response on the topic were just released as part of a Freedom of Information request filed by Postmedia.

The greatest fear people expressed was creating partisan divisions on a municipal level.

The results are self-explanatory.

Matthew Black | Postmedia
Matthew Black | Postmedia

With over seven out of ten respondents in disagreement, it’s clear that Albertans aren’t in favour.

However, the government hasn’t let the idea go just yet.

A senior official in Premier Danielle Smith’s office told Postmedia columnist Don Braid, “The issue is being examined as we speak…legislation in the spring is possible, but no final decisions are made yet.”

It’s curious why the province is still pursuing the change after their own research shows that a supermajority of Albertans aren’t in favour.

Is the UCP government interested in what the people think, or is something else happening here?

Even More Proof

A separate survey commissioned by Alberta Municipalities revealed that more than two-thirds of respondents preferred that local candidates run independently.

More than eight out of ten respondents to that survey expressed worries that “municipal officials who are part of a party would vote along party lines and not necessarily in the best interests of the community.”

Alberta Municipalities listened to what their constituents told them and has come out strongly against political parties being represented in municipal elections.

Alberta Municipalities 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,” Gandam said.

He says the continued provincial government resources being poured into “feeling out” the idea is baffling.

“The Government of Alberta has been rubbing many Albertans the wrong way with its efforts to promote political parties in local municipal government and school board elections.” 

Edmonton Councillor Andrew Knack told the Edmonton Journal it’s quite clear where Albertans stand on the topic idea.

“When 70 percent say that, that means people who are both on the left side of the spectrum and the right side of the spectrum and everyone in between do not want it, so it’s not like this is even a partisan issue,” he said.

He then called on the province to quit pushing it.

“I don’t think there’s been any clear understanding as to why this idea is even being pursued when nobody was asking for it, nobody campaigned on it, and Albertans are clearly stating loud and clear that this is not something they want.”

So, Where’s The Push for Parties Coming From?

Ultimately, it’s not that much of a mystery why Smith is still taking her time pursuing the notion.

Take Back Alberta (TBA)–—a socially conservative group that recently took over the board of Danielle Smith’s party–  has long had plans to infiltrate school boards and municipal politics in Alberta and across Canada. TBA supporters  comprise at least half the board of Alberta’s governing United Conservative Party.

The UCP and TBA connection was reconfirmed at the Alberta Municipalities convention last fall.

There, multiple elected municipal officials told Postmedia that supporters of Take Back Alberta were behind the wheel of the conservative government trying to steer parties into local politics.

The saying goes, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.”

Maybe Smith’s government is quacking so much that they are not hearing us.

Smith cited her reasons for further exploring the topic as a potential solution to “low voter turnout” and said she’s hopeful that  “we can find a party system that you’re amenable to.”

A party we’re “amenable” to would be great, but sometimes, finding out what the public wants requires listening.

Albertans have been loud and clear: the system they want isn’t a partied one.

Maybe it’s time Smith took off her TBA headphones.

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